Press Release

Saint Agnes nurses file charges against Ascension Health claiming unlawful interference with union drive

Large group of nurses with raised fists, NNOC and NNU logos

RNs say they stand determined to improve patient care despite management threats, intimidation, and illegal surveillance

Registered nurses at Ascension Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, Md. have filed unfair labor practice charges against Ascension Health, one of the largest nonprofit Catholic hospital chains in the country, claiming management has violated labor law by refusing to respect the nurses’ right to organize, announced National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU). According to nurses, Ascension is employing unlawful tactics to undermine their unionizing campaign, including threats, intimidation, and illegal surveillance.

On Sept. 27 Saint Agnes nurses filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that management’s tactics to interfere with their efforts to unionize are illegal. The charges will lead to a federal investigation into the hospital’s conduct related to the organizing campaign. The unfair labor practice charges include:

  • Unlawfully threatening to withdraw and withdrawing benefits from employees because of the union’s representation petition;
  • Unlawfully making promises and/or granting benefits to stifle the union’s organizing campaign;
  • Unlawfully soliciting grievances to stifle the union’s organizing campaign;
  • Maintaining an unlawful no-solicitation policy and/or unlawfully enforcing its no-solicitation policy to bar off-duty employees from discussing the union;
  • Unlawfully surveilling employees engaged in union or other protected activities;
  • Unlawfully denying Weingarten representatives for nurses called into  investigatory meetings  related to union activities;
  • Making unlawful messages to employees that the selection of a union would be futile because the employer has a policy that it will not bargain over certain mandatory subjects.

“The registered nurses at Saint Agnes have come together to form a union to improve patient care at our hospital and to better serve our community,” said Kimmy Rider, an RN in the ICU at Saint Agnes. “If we succeed, we will be the first union hospital for nurses in Baltimore. This is why management is fighting so hard to stop us. As nurses, we know our patients can’t wait for improvements in care and this means we must have a real voice in patient care. That’s why we are committed to ensuring that this union election moves forward. Our affiliation with NNOC/NNU will strengthen our capacity to make the changes that are so badly needed at Saint Agnes. We want our patients to know that we will not be dissuaded from this goal by management’s despicable, dirty tricks.”

On July 28,  Saint Agnes nurses filed with the NLRB their intention to hold a union election for representation by NNOC/NNU for the 600 RNs at the hospital. However, Ascension management refused to agree to an election date. On Aug. 17,  a hearing was held by the NLRB to go over the details of the election. To date, the NLRB has failed to issue a decision regarding the details of the union vote.

According to nurses, with the election stalled, Ascension has stepped up its campaign of intimidation on nurses in an effort to prevent them from continuing their campaign to improve conditions at the hospital for nurses and patients.

“Nurses from Saint Agnes are telling me that Ascension is threatening nurses with discipline for talking about the union, management has engaged in illegal surveillance of union supporters, and even made threats about eliminating benefits if nurses decide to join a union,” said Taylor Crittendon, an RN in the ICU at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas.  “This activity is illegal under federal law. I am so angry to hear that our fellow nurses are being treated this way. We have seen how far Ascension is willing to go to silence us as patient advocates so they can prioritize profits over the well-being of our patients. We want the nurses at Saint Agnes to know their union siblings at Ascension hospitals in Austin and Wichita stand with them and we know they will prevail.” 

Unfortunately, it is not unusual for Ascension to fight workers organizing at their hospitals.  The Department of Labor Office of Labor Management Standards recently reported Ascension spent nearly $500,000 in its failed attempt to stop nurses from organizing in Wichita, Kan.

“Despite well-known, pro-union Catholic teachings, management fiercely stood against our unionization efforts in Kansas,” said Lisa Watson, RN in the ICU at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita. “However, we stood steadfast and won our union election in November of 2022. We hope to have nurses in Baltimore join us in negotiations soon.”

Ascension’s aggressive campaign against its own nurses comes at a time when Archbishop Borys Gudziak, of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, declared Aug. 30 in a statement entitled “Radical Solidarity with Working Families, that "the essential role labor unions can and often do play in society must be acknowledged and affirmed," adding that unions should "continue to be supported in their work that supports healthy, thriving families, especially those who are most in need."

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.