Press Release

Austin nurses to return to work after historic one-day strike and three-day lockout by Ascension

Large group of nurses outside hospital with raised fists

March on the boss will show nurses’ resolve to win a strong contract that improves patient care conditions

After Tuesday’s historic one-day strike at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin (ASMCA) – the largest nurse strike in Texas history – that brought unprecedented numbers of nurses, elected representatives, union workers, and community supporters to the picket line, nurses will be returning to their patients’ bedsides July 1.

“Union nurses at Ascension Seton are so thankful to the Austin community for coming out in record-breaking heat to support our efforts for improved patient care conditions,” said Natasha Gosek, RN in the neonatal intensive care unit. “We have heard from countless hospital staff, patients, and neighbors who understand that safe staffing and improved nurse retention are commonsense solutions our community needs and Ascension can afford to provide.”

While they attempted to return to work on Wednesday, Ascension security and management refused to allow them to enter, which nurses described as a failed union-busting tactic.

“Nothing is going to stop union nurses from being patient advocates: During Ascension’s lockout, we continued advocating for patients at the bargaining table and beyond,” continued Gosek. “The community’s overwhelming encouragement allows us to go back to work and negotiate at the bargaining table with even more power, so we can advance contract solutions that benefit our patients and the city we love.”

  • What: Return-to-work march on the boss by NNOC/NNU registered nurses
  • When: Saturday, July 1, 6:30 a.m. 
  • Where: Ascension Seton Medical Center – Medical Parkway and W. 35th St. toward South Entrance
  • Interview Availability: Nurses will be available for interviews at the march.

The following statements from elected representatives and government officials were given in response to nurses’ historic one-day strike or on the picket line Tuesday:

  • U.S. Rep Greg Casar: “Solidarity is a word that we toss around a lot, but what it means is making a sacrifice for something so much bigger than yourselves. [Nurses] are out here on strike making sure that our kids are born safely, that we’re taken care of when we are sick, that our neighbors—in their most desperate moments—get the care that they need.”
  • Texas State Rep. Gina Hinojosa: “Nurses make up the backbone of our health care system. In recent years, nurses have had to take on more patients while hospitals are short-staffed, creating unsafe conditions. Austin Ascension nurses unionized and are fighting for safe staffing to save patient lives.”
  • Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy: “I know there are educators here [on the strike line]. I know there are bus drivers here. I know there are state workers here. I know there are electricians here. I know there are EMS workers here. I know there are federal government workers here. I know there are communication workers here. I know there are health workers here. I know there are retired workers here. Solidarity means standing together. Solidarity means an injury to one is an injury to all.”
  • Travis County Health District: “Based on our experience, frontline staff – including nurses – have always demonstrated a commitment to providing the best possible care to our patients – Travis County residents with low income. Everything we are hearing aligns with our concerns about Ascension being more concerned about sending profits to its headquarters in St. Louis instead of delivering proper patient care in Travis County.” 

In the past year, Ascension nurses have made history, creating some of the largest private-sector nurse unions in states with laws hostile to worker organizing. Driving the surge of unionization at Ascension is the blatant hypocrisy of the nonprofit, Catholic hospital chain – one of the nation’s largest that has $19.5 billion in cash reserves, an investment arm that manages $41 billion, and a private equity operation worth $1 billion.

Chronic short-staffing imposed by Ascension hospital management – a practice that began well before the Covid-19 pandemic to boost profits and executive compensation – makes it challenging for nurses to provide the highest quality of care to their patients because it drastically limits how much time a nurse can spend on each patient. Short-staffing also creates a revolving door of nursing staff, who suffer moral injury and distress because they can’t provide the care they know results in the best patient outcomes.

 For more information on ASMCA nurses’ union contract campaign and one-day strike – which coincided with one-day strikes by Ascension nurses in two Wichita, Kan. hospitals – and for extensive background on Ascension’s well-documented record of putting profits over patients, please read the press release here.  

Nurses will not be sharing details of negotiations publicly, out of respect for the process and to ensure Ascension will settle strong contracts as soon as possible.

Photos of this week’s actions are also available for media use on NNU’s Flickr account, with attribution to National Nurses United. 

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. NNU affiliates also include California Nurses Association, DC Nurses Association, Michigan Nurses Association, Minnesota Nurses Association, and New York State Nurses Association