City-county councillors back nurses pushing to unionize

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — IU Health nurses hoping to form a union got a strong amount of support tonight. The Indianapolis City-County Council unanimously approved a resolution calling for all county healthcare providers to allow nurses to unionize.

Nurses who are pro-union said having the city-county council approve the resolution is their strongest showing of public support to date. They said it’s mostly been an internal battle against the anti-union nurses and IU health administrators.

But tonight’s vote gave them the confidence to keep their fight going, one they feel is slowly turning in their favor.  Standing before the city-county council, newly retired nurse Cynthia Wood proved she wasn’t done making sure the patients she cared for get the treatment she feels they deserve.

“Many nurses feel they’re hampered in their efforts to give the best possible care to all their patients.”  Her concerns are specifically at IU Health hospitals.

According to an Indiana State Health Department report, IU Health failed in making sure there were enough healthcare workers to meet their patients needs. Wood and others said they’ve tried to explain those problems to administration without success.

It’s why they feel forming a union will give them a stronger voice and a better chance at making a difference. Monday night, the city-county council agreed.

“When nurses are working to get a contract so that they can affect quality care, this is not just their burden, but this is something that all community members have a stake in, especially city and county and state governments,” said Randa Ruge, healthcare organizer for the United Steelworkers Union.

Her union is the group ready to help IU Health nurses start their own chapter in Indianapolis. She said in order form a union, at least 30 percent of the nurses need to be in favor of it, a number she said they’ve already surpassed. But other nurses argued forming a union has become a distraction, specifically for the patients.

“The patients are barely aware of it,” argued Wood. “We don’t talk about it at the bedside, we don’t talk about it in patient care areas.”

Forming a union might have divided the nurses, but Wood says both sides share the same desire to provide quality care.

“All of the nurses care deeply about their practice,” she said. “They care deeply about that we take care of. We are all working hard for the same goals.”

Ruge said a vote to form a union could happen as early as June.

I-U Health has yet to respond to tonight’s resolution. But a statement issued last month shows they are against nurses unionizing.

It says in part:

IU Health believes a union will not enhance patient care and cannot deliver the changes nurses are seeking.

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