HPAE Organizing Committees of Nurses and Service Workers at Virtua Willingboro have filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board for union representation elections at Virtua Willingboro Hospital.
Prior to petitioning the NLRB, a workers delegation went to a hospital nursing supervisor on Friday, April 30 to inform her that their committees, representing 180 nurses and 125 service workers, have majority support to form a union with HPAE at the hospital. They then demanded the hospital voluntarily recognize.
Eric Began, a registered nurse who was part of that delegation, said the workers “realize that we need to come together to have a voice about crucial issues like safe staffing and pandemic safety.”
Began, a U.S. Air Force veteran who fought in the Iraq War, said: “This past year has taught us that if we want to see improvements, we need to take a stand and organize for them. That is why we are joining the largest, most effective health care union in the state.”
The committees later that day filed petitions with the NLRB for elections to join HPAE.
Kevin Gimeno, a Registered Nurse for five years, including the last three at Virtua Willingboro, said workers at the hospital are organizing because they are concerned about patient safety as well as personal safety on the job. Gimeno, a U.S. Navy veteran and a volunteer firefighter in Mount Holly, said his co-workers want to be able to do their jobs safely, with fairer scheduling and better pay.
“This last year has shown us how important it is for nurses and other healthcare workers to have a voice when it comes to safe staffing, personal protective equipment and other issues that affect our ability to care for our patients and protect ourselves,” Gimeno said.
Beth Cohen, RN at Virtua Memorial Hospital and Vice President of HPAE Local 5105, accompanied the delegation to inform the hospital of their majority.
“Organizing is a must for healthcare workers, especially after our experiences during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” she said. “We are on the frontlines and we must be able to advocate for what’s best for our patients, our community and each other, without fear of intimidation from our employers. HPAE gives us that voice.”
Deborah Arena, a nurse for 30 years who has been at Virtua Willingboro since 2014, said safe staffing is an important issue for the workers.
“Our patients need more direct care than in past years. On our mental health unit, we have been seeing patients who have been severely impacted by the pandemic and can be more violent. In the last year, patients have attacked nurses and psych techs and we feel we have no recourse, no safe place, to turn” Arena said.
“When we are unionized, we can discuss with the administration issues like better staffing and more training for dealing with patients who are a risk,” she added. “We could address these issues without fear of blame.”
Edward McNair, a Mental Health Tech, said workers want union protection so they could fight for to make jobs at Virtua Willingboro Hospital good jobs that workers want to stay in, instead of the constant turnover we are seeing now.
“If we have better pay, adequate staffing, a diverse management team, or at least one that is trained in cultural diversity, the hospital will stand a better chance of retaining workers,” he said. “If we have a fair way of settling issues that arise on the job and equal opportunity to grow within the hospital this will make our experience at Virtua Willingboro a more positive one.”
Fore more information, contact: Michael Allen, (646) 436-7556