Press Release

Nurses in Texas and Kansas to strike, resisting Ascension union-busting tactics

Nurses from Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin TX demonstrating

Nearly 2,000 Ascension nurses will strike on December 6, management to lock out RNs for three days after strike

Registered nurses in Texas and Kansas at three Ascension hospitals are moving forward with historic one-day strikes on Wednesday, December 6, to protest unsafe conditions management has failed to remedy, announced National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU).

The nurses gave Ascension management notice on November 22 that they would strike. On November 25, Ascension management told nurses that they would be locked out for an additional three days following their planned one-day strike. Nurses at Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin (ASMCA) in Texas and nurses at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis and Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph hospitals in Wichita, Kansas, condemn this decision by management as an apparent ploy to intimidate nurses from speaking out against the conditions driving their decision to strike.

“By locking nurses out for three days, Ascension is sending the message, once again, that providing patients with excellent care is not their priority,” said Kris Fuentes, RN in the neonatal ICU at ASMCA in Austin. “As nurses, we are very focused on our patients and winning a contract that sets the stage for optimal care. It is high time for management to prioritize patients and reach an agreement that accomplishes this.”

What: One-day strikes by NNOC/NNU registered nurses
When: Austin - Wednesday, December 6, 6:45 a.m. to Thursday, December 7, 6:45 a.m.| Wichita - Wednesday, December 6, 7 a.m. to Thursday, December 7, 7 a.m.
Where: Austin - Ascension Seton Medical Center | Wichita - Ascension via Christi St. Joseph Hospital and Ascension via Christi St. Francis Hospital

Go here for detailed list of local actions, locations, and events, starting Tuesday, December 5.

“If Ascension management thinks that locking us out for three days will make us back down from demanding optimal care for our patients, they are very mistaken,” said Shelly Rader, RN in the ER at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita. “Advocating for our patients, and a contract that supports their receiving optimal care, is a sacred duty for nurses. We will not be intimidated. We are ready to return to work and ready to reach a strong agreement.”

“Ascension’s decision to lock nurses out for three more days after our one-day strike shows how they'd rather use their vast resources to delay improvements than to invest in the care our patients deserve,” said Carol Samsel, RN, in the ICU at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph in Wichita. “Rather than listen to the nurses, management is stubbornly delaying improvements in care our patients deserve. They may think they are punishing the nurses, but they are actually damaging their reputation with the public.”

The RNs are bargaining their first union contracts. Throughout bargaining, nurses have emphasized the importance of finding solutions for safe staffing and nurse recruitment and retention, which are critical factors for ensuring patient safety. On December 6, they will strike to specifically call attention to:

  • Equipment issues: At ASMCA, there is a lack of functional IV pumps, hospital gowns, blankets, and thermometers, as well as persistent problems with hospital-issued phones that nurses use during their shift for communication.
  • Staffing issues: In Wichita, at St. Francis and St. Joseph hospitals, management’s unsafe ‘floating’ policy means nurses are assigned to units where they do not usually work and may not have the training or expertise to care for those patients. In Austin, at ASCMA, management is proposing that labor and delivery nurses with as little as 18 months of experience be assigned to ‘charge’ roles, which are typically given to experienced nurses in safely-staffed hospitals as they are responsible for the smooth functioning of their units and act as resource nurses.

“We are constantly running out of clean hospital gowns, thermometers, and even blankets for newborn babies,” said Taylor Critendon, RN in the intermediate care unit at ASMCA in Austin. “We are also dealing with broken IV pumps and hospital-provided phones are often not working properly, which can delay vital communications between staff in situations where timely intervention is crucial. Ascension should use its vast resources to invest in the equipment we need to care for our patients. Then we don’t have to spend the time we should be caring for our patients hunting for essential supplies and working equipment.”

“We are striking because management continues to float nurses to units where they do not usually work and where they do not necessarily have expertise or experience,” said Lisa Watson, a medical ICU RN at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita. “You wouldn’t send a cancer patient to a pediatric doctor so why would you send a pediatric nurse to work in oncology? But this is what Ascension is doing with nurses at St. Francis. We want to ensure that nurses are only assigned to units where they have expertise.”


The conditions Austin and Wichita nurses are fighting against track with a broader pattern of Ascension’s greed, which has garnered the scrutiny of local and national news media and federal regulators, including:

  • A February 2023 letter to CEO Joseph Impicciche by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin calling into question Ascension’s nonprofit status and mission-driven values.
  • Two separate reports in January 2023 from Milwaukee, Wis., discussing “disruptions to patient care, long wait times in the emergency department, delayed surgeries and staff concerns about patient safety” at Ascension facilities.
  • A December 2022 New York Times investigation into Ascension’s staffing conditions reporting that the hospital “spent years reducing its staffing levels in an effort to improve profitability, even though the chain is a nonprofit organization with nearly $18 billion of cash reserves.”
  • A November 2021 STAT News investigation describing Ascension as a hospital system “moonlighting as a private equity firm.”

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.


Earlier this year on June 27, 2023, nearly 2,000 Ascension nurses in Austin and Wichita went on a historic one-day strike despite a blatant union-busting scheme by the hospital system. Ascension is repeating the same tactic for the December 6 strike.

These strikes followed a wave of historic organizing at the three hospitals, driven by nurses’ 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.

And in early November 2023, nurses at Ascension Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, Md. voted to unionize with National Nurses Organizing Committee, citing as their reasons for organizing many of the same problems that their Texas and Kansas colleagues are facing.

Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin:

  • 800 nurses represented
  • September 21, 2022 - formed the largest private-sector nurse union in Texas by voting to join NNOC/NNU
  • November 17, 2022 - held a rally to mark the start of their contract negotiations

Ascension via Christi St. Francis Hospital in Wichita:

  • 650 nurses represented
  • November 10, 2022 - formed the first private-sector union in Wichita in the city’s largest hospital by voting to join NNOC/NNU
  • February 13, 2023 - held a rally to mark the start of their contract negotiations

Ascension via Christi St. Joseph Hospital in Wichita:

  • 300 nurses represented
  • March 9, 2023 - voted to join NNOC/NNU, making them the second Ascension-owned hospital in Wichita to create a nurses union
  • May 22, 2023 - held a rally to mark the start of their contract negotiations

Ascension Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore: