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Vote brings single union to hospital

January 13, 1999|By DON AINES

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - After a vote last month, almost all employees at the Fulton County Medical Center will be represented by one union, a prospect that pleases both the membership and the hospital's president.

On Dec. 29, registered nurses and medical, laboratory and X-ray technologists at the center voted 37 to 1 to join District 1199P of the Service Employees International Union, according to district Vice President Neal Bisno.

The vote covers 55 workers, but Bisno said not all of them participated in the vote.

Medical technologist Sue Schooley said center employees will have a stronger voice at the bargaining table now that they are all represented by one union instead of two.

"I'm looking forward to having a single contract that we use for all employees that is fair to everyone," hospital President and CEO Robert B. Murray III said Tuesday. He said the hospital can now deal with one set of terms and conditions for all employees.

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Schooley and Murray both said they expect contract negotiations for the nurses and technicians to begin in February.

Bisno said about 180 licensed practical nurses and service, clerical and maintenance personnel joined the union in December 1997. A small group of respiratory therapists and technicians joined last November.

"This is virtually the entire non-supervisory staff," he said.

Schooley said the registered nurses and professional technicians were previously members of the Pennsylvania Nurses Association. They have been working under terms of the old association-negotiated contract, which expired Oct. 31.

"PNA had been around about 10 years and over the years it just seemed to get more and more ineffective," Schooley said. She said negotiations between the nurses association, the Service Employees International Union and the National Labor Relations Board were required before the vote because both unions are part of the AFL-CIO.

In the end, Schooley said, the old union decided to withdraw before the vote was taken.

"The hospital was very kind toward us in this election. They didn't try and interfere," said Schooley.

"It wasn't anything we necessarily wanted to get in the middle of," Murray said. The administration will work with the employees toward a contract that ensures good wages and working conditions, he said.

Before negotiations start, Bisno said the membership must develop contract proposals and elect a bargaining committee. He said it was too early to comment on what the members may ask for in a new contract.

Bisno said the Service Employees International Union represents 14,000 health care workers in Pennsylvania.

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