Nurses at the Harborage in North Bergen triumph in election to join HPAE - Health Professionals & Allied Employees

Nurses at the Harborage in North Bergen triumph in election to join HPAE

Taken from The Hudson County View

By John Heinis

December 20, 2023

Nurses at the Harborage in North Bergen, a 245-bed nursing care facility, are now waiting for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to certify yesterday’s vote to join the Health Professionals & Allied Employees (HPAE) union.

“Today is a great day for these nurses because they now have a voice in their workplace to make positive changes through collective action,” HPAE President Debbie White said in a statement.

“We now urge the employer to negotiate a contract with the staffing standards that these nurses need so they can safely care for their patients.”

Mary Middleton, who has worked at Harborage for more than 30 years, said the victory will help get more nurses in the facility which will help with working conditions and in retention of staff which will help nurses do a better job caring for their patients.

“The patients count on us: This is their home,” she stated.

Middleton said some of the reasons nurses petitioned the NLRB to join New Jersey’s largest union of healthcare workers include a lack of safe staffing and a general lack of respect for workers by the employer.

State Senator Brian Stack (D-33), also the Union City mayor whose district will include North Bergen starting next year, came out in support of the effort.

“As a state senator, I am proud to support the commendable decision of our dedicated nurses to join the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) Local 5097. Supporting nurses in their decision to join a union like HPAE is crucial for advocating fair wages, better working conditions, and enhanced patient care,” he said in a written statement.

“Our nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system, selflessly providing care to our communities each and every day. As essential members of the healthcare system, nurses deserve to have their voices heard and their rights protected. By joining together in a union like HPAE, nurses can have a powerful and unified voice, allowing them to address concerns and fight for their best interests.”

More than 120 workers at The Harborage—Certified Nursing Assistants, Housekeepers, and Dietary Staff—are already members of HPAE Local 5097.

“This is great,” Yasmine Peralta, who has worked at the facility for 13 years, said after the vote tally was announced that the facility’s more than 40 nurses are now members of the union.

“This gives us a voice in our workplace. I am more hopeful today than at any time I’ve ever been in this place that we can create real equity, fight for our patients and protect our jobs all at the same time.”

Unsafe staffing had led to an unsustainable staff attrition rate, she said. A union changes the power dynamics, giving workers a say in how to tackle workplace issues that had proven difficult to tackle in the past, she added.

“This is what we fought for, to have Complete Care be a partner in our efforts to care for our patients,” Edith Portillo noted.

A date and time has not been scheduled for the NLBR vote as of this writing.

Read more here.