West Anaheim Medical nurses vote to unionize
Nurses at West Anaheim Medical Center voted to join the California Nurses Association by 147-33 in a secret ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations board Thursday, Oct. 12.
The lopsided approval testified to widespread discontent over pay and benefits that have led to an exodus of experienced nurses from the Anaheim facility to other hospitals, and a surge in temporary help, according to nurses who favored the union.
The CNA, with 100,000 members statewide, is one of the state’s most aggressive and politically active unions. It represents 70 percent of registered nurses in California hospitals, including seven in Orange County.
“Our experienced nurses are leaving for UC Irvine, the Veterans Administration and other union hospitals where they are better paid,” said Ester Cadavona, 49, a 19-year medical-surgical nurse who makes $43 an hour. “That affects patient care.”
She said that the collective bargaining that will follow the union vote “will give us more voices on patient safety, on benefits and on pay.” One concern, she added, is the failure to provide enough nurses to fill in during staff breaks.
In a written statement, Gayle Griffithe, regional marketing director for PrimeHealthcare, the Ontario-based chain that owns the Anaheim facility, said, “While we are disappointed in the election results, we would like to recognize our nurses for the respect they show for their coworkers, regardless of differences of opinion.
“We are committed to bargaining in good faith with CNA leadership, to reach an agreement in the best interests of our nurses, our patients and the community we serve. “
Another factor in the vote, Cadavona said, was CNA’s track record on patient advocacy. More than a decade ago, the union gained national fame for waging a successful campaign to limit patient-nurse ratios in California hospitals to 5 to 1.
“When I started out, a nurse would be caring for as many as eight or ten patients,” Cadavona said. “Now it is a maximum of five.”