BOSTON, MA - Healthcare workers at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center, the largest medical center in the Caritas Christi Health Care chain, today announced they have voted, in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, by 73% to join 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
The vote means more than 800 St. Elizabeth's Medical Center workers will officially join 1199SEIU, just weeks after the announcement of an historic accord between 1199SEIU, the Area Trades Council, and Caritas Christi Health Care ensuring free and fair voting conditions for employees while they are deciding whether to join a union. Caritas Christi is the largest community-based health system in Massachusetts. 1199SEIU is the largest union of healthcare workers in Massachusetts.
Workers who participated in the vote included respiratory therapists, surgical techs, x-ray techs, clerical workers, nursing assistants, housekeepers, dietary workers and many others. A group of skilled maintenance workers also voted to join the Area Trade Council.
"We are overjoyed and thrilled. People were crying with joy in the halls last night," said St. Elizabeth's Medical Center Patient Care Assistant Sonia Marshall, "We believe in the mission of St. Elizabeth's, and we're excited about working together to make our hospital the best that it can be for our patients and also for hospital workers and our families. We look forward to the day when all of our sisters and brothers across Boston are able to have free and fair union elections."
Over the past 35 years, workers have attempted to form a union at St. Elizabeth's at least three different times. Under new leadership, Caritas Christi Health Care reached an historic accord in January 2009 with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the Area Trades Council, which established a free and fair union election code of conduct. Under the accord, workers would be free to make their own decisions on whether to join together as a union under fair secret ballot voting conditions. Caritas Christi and the members of 1199SEIU - including workers at Caritas Good Samaritan Hospital in Brockton, who had previously organized with 1199SEIU - along with the Area Trades Council, have pledged to work together on efforts around employee training and education, as well as employee and patient satisfaction, to usher in the next level of health care quality.
"We warmly welcome St. Elizabeth's workers into our union," said 1199SEIU President George Gresham. "This is a time of great challenges and unprecedented opportunities. Caritas Christi is a thoughtful and innovative health system that understands how giving workers a free choice about uniting together not only allows them to provide the very best care to their patients, but also helps to preserve the long-term sustainability of their hospital. Now that St. Elizabeth's workers have a union voice, we can all work together to defend healthcare funding, expand access, and make life better for the caregivers at St Elizabeth's and their families."
"By an overwhelming margin, St. Elizabeth's workers have come together to unite with the common goal of making their hospital the best it can be for patients, for the community and for each other as caregivers," said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Mike Fadel. "During this time of budget cuts and economic uncertainty, workers at St. Elizabeth's will stand together with their fellow healthcare workers across Massachusetts. The next step is that workers at St. Elizabeth's will elect a bargaining committee and begin the process of forming their own bargaining proposals."
Organizing efforts are ongoing at hospitals throughout Massachusetts. Area hospital CEOs have been asked to allow workers to vote under