Press Release

Austin nurses unite in solidarity against management’s attempts to retaliate

Austin nurses pose together at a safe staffing rally

Union nurses at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin today stood in support behind their coworkers, who are facing management’s attempted retaliation for exercising their rights to advocate for patient safety. Following nurses’ one-day strike and management’s three-day lockout of striking nurses, management proceeded to erroneously investigate nurses.

Some of those nurses met with management the morning of Monday, December 18 to discuss potential disciplinary action. As they walked into their meetings with management, they were escorted by dozens of their fellow ASCMA nurses, in a show of solidarity and strength.

“Union nurses at Ascension speak up when staffing is so skeletal that patients can’t be seen in a timely manner, or when patients aren’t getting the resources required for a full and fast recovery,” said Zetta Hackleman, a perioperative services RN who has worked at the hospital for 43 years. “Rather than make the investments in staff and patient safety its hospitals desperately need, Ascension — a multi-billion dollar corporation — is attempting to silence nurses. We won’t stop speaking up because we know our patients and our community deserve better.”

During the management meetings, nurses shared flyers with visitors and patients of the hospital, which called attention to their demands for management to end attempts to retaliate against its staff.

“Management needs to understand nurses won’t accept bullying, especially when it’s directed against us for advocating for our patients,” said Lindsay Spinney, RN, who has worked at ASCMA’s neonatal intensive care unit for six years. “Before we formed a union, nurses would speak up about our patient care concerns but management would successfully silence us, time and time again. With a union, we can exercise our right to support our patients and each other — and ensure Ascension stays true to its mission of providing spiritually centered, holistic care.”

Earlier this month, on December 6, 2023, registered nurses at ASCMA, who are bargaining their first union contract, went on a one-day strike to protest unsafe conditions management has failed to remedy. They moved forward despite management’s three-day lockout of striking nurses, a blatant union-busting scheme by the hospital system.

The strike in December, and a previous one on June 27, 2023, follows a wave of historic organizing at Ascension hospitals by registered nurses, driven by their belief that Ascension has failed to invest its resources — including the tens of millions of dollars it does not pay in federal taxes, due to its nonprofit status — back into its communities and workforce.

Ascension is the second-largest and wealthiest nonprofit and Catholic health system in the country. In fiscal year 2021, Ascension reported a net income of more than $6.4 billion, and the system’s CEO took home a compensation package worth more than $13 million. Additionally, according to a 2022 Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Ascension runs an investment company that manages more than $41 billion.

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.