Press Release

Mission Hospital RNs ratify first contract by huge margin

Nurses outside Mission facility holding event, sign in foreground "Save Lives, (Safe) Staffing Now"

‘A big step forward for patient safety, recruitment/retention’

It’s in the books! Registered nurses at HCA’s Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C. voted by a huge margin Thursday and Friday to ratify their first ever union contract that they say will provide significant improvements for patient care protections and enhanced standards that promote retention of experienced RNs and recruitment of new nurses, announced National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) today.

“Our new contract is a huge step forward for nurses, patients, and our entire community,” said Sue Fischer, a Mission RN and a member of the bargaining team.

“This pact provides substantial measures to ensure nurses have a stronger voice for safe staffing, new health and safety measures for a safer hospital, and economic improvements to keep the bedrock nurses our community needs, at the bedside,” said Sarah Duval, a Mission RN. “This contract also establishes a great base for additional improvements in future contracts.”

“Congratulations to the dedicated Mission RNs who have worked for many months, including through the worst pandemic in a century, to achieve these legally binding protections,” said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN. “This agreement will also inspire RNs in nonunion workplaces across the country about what they, too, can achieve by winning a collective voice for their patients and themselves, especially in a union with the unparalleled record of NNU.”

“We are proud of this agreement,” said Mission RN Kelly Graham. “It is a testament to the unity of the Mission nurses, and to the phenomenal support we have received from our neighbors, elected leaders, clergy, and friends across the greater Asheville community. Our pledge to all of you is to ensure that you receive the highest standard of care when you are sick, injured, and in need of therapeutic, healing hospital care.”

Under the new three-year contract, all Mission RNs will receive wage increases of up to 7 percent in the first year and up to 17 percent total, based on years of experience, over the life of the agreement, which includes a grid guaranteeing regular increases.

Safe staffing and health and safety protocols were a top priority for the nurses and substantial gains were made throughout the contract, including:

  • Patient care protections, including the formation of a Professional Practice Committee comprised of a dozen union RNs to review patient care conditions and make recommendations for improvement at the hospital, and a separate staffing committee with equal participation of union nurses and management to review hospital staffing levels, with approval by the committee for any changes in staffing patterns.
  • Guaranteed meal and rest breaks to ensure RNs can take needed breaks, and a ban on mandatory overtime, both critical to avoiding fatigue that can lead to medical errors.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing, including the requirement that the hospital will provide proper PPE for nurses that meets the strictest federal, state, and local guidelines, and guaranteed HIV and Covid-19 testing for nurses at no cost following an exposure.
  • Workplace violence prevention, including a hospital behavioral response team with added security for workplace violence prevention, with additional violence prevention training for nurses.
  • Patient handling lift teams and training to reduce musculoskeletal and other injuries to nurses, a major cause of nurse injuries typically linked to ambulating heavier patients.
  • Protections against unsafe floating – Unsafe floating is the management practice of assigning nurses to units for which they do not have the clinical expertise or training. The contract limits unsafe floating and ensures that the hospital cannot float nurses from an assignment that leaves their home unit short staffed.

Other important contract provisions include:

  • A hospital committee to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion on race, gender, age, and sexual orientation in hospital recruitment, retention, promotion, and training.
  • Limits on the ability of the hospital administration to make cuts in nurses’ health coverage.
  • Just cause protections, including grievance procedures for discipline and hospital harassment.
  • Seniority protection for long-term nurses in layoffs, recall, filling of vacancies, and transfers.
  • Additional pay for nurses who work nights, evenings, weekends, overtime, when transporting patients, and when called in for needed additional shifts.
  • Paid time off to vote in elections.

National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC)-North Carolina is an affiliate of National Nurses United (NNU), which represents 12,000 HCA RNs at 20 HCA hospitals from North Carolina to California. Overall NNU represents 175,000 RNs nationwide.