New Orleans nurses make history by unionizing

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Large group of nurses celebrating with hands in the air

University Medical Center RNs join NNOC

By Lucy Diavolo

National Nurse magazine - Oct | Nov | Dec 2023 Issue

Registered nurses at University Medical Center (UMC) in New Orleans, La., voted in early December to join National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU). In a three-day vote from Dec. 7 to Dec. 9, UMC nurses voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the union. Despite a disgusting union-busting effort from management, nurses voted 82 percent yes with over 90 percent turnout. Altogether, 74 percent of eligible voters said yes to the union. 

“This is a historic day for UMC, for New Orleans and the surrounding area, and for all of Louisiana and the South,” said Dionne Jones, RN in the in-house nurse pool at UMC. “Nurses at our hospital wanted a voice so we can speak up for our patients and ourselves, and we wanted a seat at the table to be involved in shaping the future of our hospital. Now that we’ve won our union, we have both.”

“Nurses in units across the hospital supported this union because of the difficult working conditions at our facility, our safety concerns about our workplace, and the unsafe staffing in our units,” said Christine Faulkner, RN in the MICU.

“As members of NNOC/NNU, UMC nurses are joining a nationwide movement of nurses committed to fighting for our patients, our communities, and our fellow health care workers,” said Cathy Kennedy, RN and president of California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC), the largest affiliate of NNU.

UMC is now the first private-sector hospital to be unionized in the state of Louisiana, and this was the largest National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election in Louisiana in nearly 30 years, making UMC nurses’ vote to join NNOC/NNU a watershed victory for labor organizing in the South. 

Nurses will now move to elect their bargaining team and prepare to negotiate their first contract. In contract negotiations, nurses say they aim to address the same issues that motivated their unionization campaign. 

Lucy Diavolo is a communications specialist at National Nurses United.