The Birth of HPAE Local 5138

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The Birth of HPAE Local 5138 It was over a decade ago that the nurses at Southern Ocean County Hospital began our efforts to organize and proudly become Local 5138 of Health Professionals and Allied Employees. When a large number of nurses united for a common cause, we became agents of change and empowered voices in our profession. The majority of nurses at our hospital became passionate about fighting for our working conditions, our patient safety and our benefits. We began this challenge after many different departments at SOCH were outraged by management arbitrarily cutting of employee’s hours to reduce medical benefit costs. Management also began the practice of “flexing” off an RN from his/her shift while making that nurse stay close to his or her phone to be called in at a moment’s notice. Most of the RNs lost wages and vacation benefits with this practice. Management evaluations of staff were unfair and subjective. We are presently in our fourth contract and we have made huge improvements to our education reimbursement, our flexing language, our seniority benefits, our wages, disciplinary procedures, and most important, patient safety. Our contracts stopped management’s ability to show favoritism and make those behind the scenes special deals. I remember the days when RNs without any ICU or Emergency Room experience were floated into these departments and given an assignment that they were not qualified to take. We felt powerless when our voices of reason went unheard time and time again! Now we have clear floating guidelines to prevent this type of unsafe practice. The most refreshing aspect of being unionized is that management and labor now sit at the same table and make decisions together. It is on ongoing learning experience for our local leaders but we grow more respected and knowledgeable with each passing year. All hospitals in New Jersey are facing increasing challenges with our present economy and government cutbacks. Nurses are the biggest labor factor in this industry. I cannot imagine not having HPAE by our side to protect our working conditions, our benefits, our salaries and our patients. You are the union! In solidarity, Julie George RN, BSN, CCRN Grievance chair HPAE local 5138
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