Approximately 40 per diem nurses at Lower Bucks Hospital recently voted to unionize with PASNAP (Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals). Once their vote is certified by the National Labor Relations Board, the per diem RNs will join their colleagues in the Nurses Association of Lower Bucks Hospital, already represented by PASNAP.
The Lower Bucks Hospital per diem nurses are the fourth newly-organized group to take steps to join PASNAP in a week. On Nov. 2, nurses from Chestnut Hill Hospital, technical specialists from Chestnut Hill Hospital, and professionals in the Office of Cancer Research at Fox Chase Medical Center all requested union recognition from Temple Health, their mutual employer.
“I feel like I can breathe now,” said Lower Bucks per diem ICU nurse Maria Valletto, RN, a leader in the effort to organize. “I was a union nurse when I was full-time, and I wanted the same protections for me and my per diem colleagues. I also know from experience that we will be able to use the voice being a union member affords us to advocate strongly for our patients and for improvements in patient care.”
Lower Bucks Hospital is owned by the fifth-largest for-profit health system in the United States: Prime Healthcare, the California-based corporate umbrella for dozens of U.S. hospitals, including Suburban Community Hospital in Norristown. The nearly 200 unionized RNs and LPNs at Lower Bucks and Suburban are, at the time of this writing, negotiating contracts with their mutual owner.
“We look forward to our per diem RNs joining us at the bargaining table to address their needs as well as those of our patients and to help us in our fight for safe staffing,” said ICU nurse Shirley Crowell, RN, co-president of the Nurses Association of Lower Bucks Hospital.
On Oct. 30, the nurses at Lower Bucks Hospital held an informational picket to highlight what they said are persistent staffing issues inside the hospital that imperil patients and nurses alike, and to alert the Bucks County community that patient care and bedside RNs at Lower Bucks Hospital are suffering. The nurses at Suburban sounded the same alarm with an informational picket the week earlier.
“PASNAP was founded on the belief that patients receive better care when critical care staff have a voice to advocate for their patients and themselves,” said PASNAP president Maureen May, RN, a longtime Temple University Hospital Infant Intensive Care Unit nurse. “In this post-pandemic time, when staffing is often skeletal and nurses struggle to give patients the time and attention they deserve, nurses need protections and respect. Our voice has never been more important.”
“Our per diem nurses fought hard to gain a much-needed voice in the workplace,” said Lower Bucks Hospital ICU nurse Anna Carlin, RN, co-president of the Nurses Association of Lower Bucks Hospital. “And yesterday, they won, which means our patients won, too. We are union strong at NALBH.”