Nurses at Ascension Saint Agnes Hospital filed for union representation in late July, and now say hospital management is violating labor law and not respecting their right to organize.

Registered nurses at the hospital organized with National Nurses United. The union says it would represent about 600 RNs at the hospital. Last week, the union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

“They’re not really happy that we wanted a union. They’ve been using illegal tactics to stop our union campaign,” said Sally Yoo, a nurse at Saint Agnes who is part of the union’s organizing committee.

The union alleges that management at the hospital has threatened to withdraw benefits from employees because of the union; made promises to stifle the union campaign; surveilled employees who are organizing; solicited grievances from employees to smother the union effort; and other charges of illegal activity.

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In an emailed statement, a representative for Ascension Saint Agnes said the hospital is acting in accordance with the National Labor Relations Act “and are committed to ensuring our associates are able to make an informed decision regarding whether or not they want to be represented by a union.”

The National Labor Relations Board has not issued a decision on when the nurses at Saint Agnes would be able to hold an election to vote on being recognized by a union. If the RNs at Saint Agnes vote in favor of union representation, it would be the first nurses’ union in Baltimore, according to National Nurses United.

Yoo said one of the biggest issues the nurses want to see addressed at the hospital is staffing levels. She said the hospital is having difficulty retaining and recruiting nurses.

“I want to be able to provide care to people who come to the hospital. [Make them] feel comfortable. I don’t want to go to work, just do my work, and get out. I want to actually spend time with patients, get to know them better,” she said. “I don’t want to just go in and put a bandage on a wound and walk out.”

Unionizing, Yoo said, is a way for the nurses to improve their working conditions and improve patient outcomes.

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“We believe coming together as a team can make us stronger and a more powerful voice,” she said.

Ascension, the nonprofit Catholic health care system that includes Saint Agnes Hospital, has fought union efforts in the past, according to National Nurses United.

Lisa Watson, a nurse at an Ascension facility in Kansas, said she and her union faced fierce opposition from Ascension management.

“However, we stood steadfast and won our union election in November of 2022. We hope to have nurses in Baltimore join us in negotiations soon,” she said in a press release.

Cody Boteler is a reporter on The Banner’s Express Desk, reporting on breaking news, trending stories and interesting things in and around Baltimore. His work has appeared in The Baltimore Sun, USA TODAY, Baltimore magazine and others.

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