Baltimore nurses rally for patient safety as bargaining for historic first contract begins
RNs at Ascension Saint Agnes demand management address chronic short-staffing
Nurses at Ascension St. Agnes in Baltimore, Maryland will hold a rally Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024, as nurses begin negotiations for a first contract with hospital management, announced the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU).
“As a native Baltimorean, and a nurse for 45 years, I am thrilled to be a part of the bargaining team that is negotiating for better patient care and nursing working conditions at Saint Agnes,” said Robin Buckner, RN in the vascular access therapy unit. “We can make this hospital a better and safer place for the Baltimore community. When it comes to staffing, when it comes to recruitment and retention, we're ready to set a new standard for the city.”
- Who: RNs at Ascension Saint Agnes
- What: Rally for Patient Safety
- When: Thursday, Jan. 18, 8:00 a.m.
- Where: Ascension Saint Agnes, 900 S. Caton Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21229 near hospital entrance
In November 2023, Saint Agnes nurses voted to join NNOC/NNU, making Saint Agnes the first private-sector hospital in the city to unionize and the fourth Ascension hospital to unionize in 13 months.
“We need a strong contract that helps us recruit and retain staff nurses who will give our community the best care possible,” said Melissa LaRue, RN in the intensive care unit. “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. We're excited to join the now 2,500 nurses represented by NNOC/NNU who are already in negotiations with Ascension to raise the standard of care at their facilities.”
The historic surge of organizing by nurses at Ascension-owned hospitals is driven by the stark contrast between Ascension’s practices and its purported mission of providing “spiritually-centered holistic care” and “serving all persons with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable.”
A January 2024 report from National Nurses United, “Dangerous Descent: How Ascension Betrays its Mission by Gutting Care for Pregnant Patients and Babies,” found Ascension has cut a quarter of its labor and delivery units in the past decade amidst a nationwide rise in pregnancy- and childbirth-related mortality. These closures were more likely to take place in areas with higher rates of low-income, Black, and Latine patients, who are already at greater risk of pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications and death.
National investigative reporting has also revealed how the chain’s egregious staffing practices led to poor patient care, how it has prioritized expanding into wealthier communities despite lucrative tax breaks to provide care for underserved communities, and how it is “moonlighting as a private equity firm.”
The Catholic nonprofit hospital system is one of the largest in the country with 140 hospitals in 19 states and also one of the wealthiest, with cash reserves, an investment company, and a private equity operation worth billions of dollars. Tax records indicate Ascension’s CEO took home more than $13 million in compensation in 2021.
NNOC/NNU represents more than 500 registered nurses at Ascension Saint Agnes.
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.