Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph nurses to rally for Wichita nurse unity as bargaining begins
Registered nurses at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph hospital in Wichita, Kan., will hold a rally on May 24 to mark the beginning of bargaining their first union contract, National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) announced today. The rally comes as bargaining is already underway at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis hospital nearby in Wichita, and nurses at both facilities will demonstrate their unity as management refuses to let them negotiate together.
“As two Ascension-owned facilities in the same city, we have a lot of the same issues because we have the same chain running both hospitals,” said Whitney Steinike, RN in the adolescent psychiatric unit at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph. “The decisions Ascension management is making on staffing, workplace violence prevention, and nurse recruitment and retention are hurting our patients and our community, which is the same community at both hospitals."
“Many nurses get floated between St. Joseph and St. Francis, so it’s clear management understands both facilities have similar needs,” Steinike added. “Whichever facility we’re assigned to, we’re there at the bedside with our patients every day, so we know what they need. What we need as nurses is for management to hear our demands about how we do right by the people of Wichita, and that’s why we’ll be rallying.”
- Who: Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph union nurses
- What: Rally for a strong contract and Wichita nurse unity
- When: Wednesday, May 24, 8 a.m.
- Where: Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph hospital, at the intersection of S. Clifton Ave. and E. Harry St.
“I’ve been a nurse for over 22 years, and I’ve seen firsthand how Ascension neglects to invest in patient care for the people of Wichita. Meanwhile, they’re driving nurses away from our facilities with short staffing and cuts,” said Marvin Ruckle, an RN in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). “We need a strong contract that helps us recruit and retain staff nurses who will give our community the best care possible. That’s why we’re ready to fight for safe staffing, workplace violence prevention, and measures that ensure our hospital is a place nurses want to spend their careers.”
“St. Joseph and St. Francis are only ten minutes apart on I-135. We serve the same communities at both hospitals. Sometimes, we’re even the same nurses at both facilities,” said Shelly Radler, RN in the emergency department at St. Francis. “That’s why we’re standing together to demand better health care for the people of Wichita.”
In March 2023, St. Joseph nurses voted to join NNOC/NNU, making them the second Ascension-owned facility in Wichita to join. Mere months earlier in November 2022, St. Francis became the largest Wichita hospital and first private-sector hospital in the city to unionize when nurses there voted by a nearly two-to-one margin to join NNOC/NNU.
St. Joseph is also the third Ascension-owned facility to vote to join NNOC/NNU in less than a year. Over 900 nurses at Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin in Texas won a landslide union election to join in September 2022 and began bargaining in November. Ascension is one of the largest not-for-profit and Catholic hospital chains in the nation.
Between St. Joseph and St. Francis, NNOC/NNU represents a total of nearly 1,000 Wichita-area nurses, with more than 650 at St. Francis and 300 at St. Joseph.
National Nurses Organizing Committee is an affiliate of National Nurses United, the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with nearly 225,000 members nationwide.