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By voting this week to join the California Nurses Association, nurses at Tracy Sutter Community Hospital enjoyed an organizing victory over Sutter Health, one of the biggest and richest hospital chains.

The RNs also stand as a reminder to us all that organizing is strong in this country — not matter how hard greedy corporations try to stop it.

These bedside caregivers will now have a strong collective voice as they fight for their rights to protect patient care against unnecessary budget cuts at Tracy Sutter Community Hospital.  

“Nurses stood up for our patients and our profession, and we won,” Dotty Nygard, an emergency room RN. “We can now share in the vision of a better and healthier future for our patients, our profession and our community with CNA representation.”

The key issues that galvanized the RNs to organize centered on patient protection provisions that already exist in other CNA-represented Sutter hospitals.

Some of the issues include making sure there are nurses dedicated to caring for patients while others who work 12-hour shifts are on much-needed breaks, plus bonus pay for required certification, and enhanced sick leave.

“This is a dream come true. It’s been very oppressive since 2005 when Sutter came in to this hospital. Now with the union representing us there will be democracy and equality in our workplace,” said Clarissa Concepcion, an RN who works in the medical surgical unit

What they accomplished wasn’t easy. Sutter Health, which profits tens of millions of dollars each year, launched an aggressive anti-union campaign of surveillance and harassment.

Hospital officials grilled nurses on their views about the union. They threatened some by saying RNs would lose wages or have adverse changes to their working conditions if they voted in favor of the union. They ripped down pro-union flyers.  Nurses were met by hospital security guards threatening arrest when the RNs tried to distribute flyers in the parking lot during shift change. The list goes on.

“It was really a dark atmosphere, “ Nygard said. “We didn’t feel safe posting on Facebook, on email, so ninety percent of our communication was over text messaging. We would call meetings over text; send encouraging notes; and it was really our own text message revolution.”

Corporations are not supposed to be allowed under labor law to harass workers wanting to organize. That’s a no-no in this country. Union-busting has become a multi-million dollar industry.  Employers wage war against their workers. It takes guts to stand up against the profitable corporations.

The Sutter Tracy nurses are not alone in speaking out. Their story can be viewed through a wider nationwide lens. Despite the anti-union efforts grabbing headlines, union organizing continues in America.

Workers -- not just nurses -- are standing up today and saying, “Yes!” when asked if they want to join a union.

Look at CNA and NNU. In the last four years, they have organized 20,000 nurses in 45 facilities across the country.

Twenty-thousand people said, “Yes.” The next four years will bring more of the same.


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