Press Release

SSM Health SLU Hospital nurses rally to demand a fair contract

RNs outside Saint Louis University Hospital with signs "Patient safety is our priority" "NNOC RNs are patient advocates" "Patients are sick, nurses are tired..."

RNs have been working without a contract for 12 months and demand that management invest in nurses to address the retention crisis

SSM Health admits one of its leaders violated the law by attempting to decertify union

Registered nurses at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital (SLUH) in St. Louis, Mo., will hold a rally on Tuesday, June 18, to demand a fair contract, announced National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) today.

The SLUH nurses, who have been working without a contract for 12 months, have been in contract negotiations since May 2023. Their contract expired on June 15, 2023.

Nurses were disappointed to learn that instead of bargaining in good faith, SSM Health was actively trying to decertify the union. NNOC filed an unfair labor practices charge with the National Labor Relations Board against SSM Health in December 2023. On March 29, 2024, SSM Health sent a notice to nurses, admitting that an SSM Health leader provided “assistance to a decertification campaign,” which was “not consistent with the law or with the Hospital’s values and expectations.” Since management has admitted to violating the law, there has been some movement on key economic issues, but RNs’ concerns about recruitment and retention remain.

Since December 2023, more than 130 nurses have left. Some hospital units are staffed nearly entirely by temporary agency or travel nurses. As a result, some new operating room nurses are being trained by temporary nurses, not core staff nurses. Some of the new hires have already quit due to inadequate training – the result of not having core staff nurses who are familiar with SSM’s policies and procedures.

“We are hemorrhaging staff because management refuses to invest in a contract that will keep nurses working at SLUH,” said Kathy Viehman, RN in the transplant clinic at SLUH. “Our turnover rate is nearly 25 percent. We are jeopardizing patient care because we do not have consistent core staff working at the hospital. Staff nurses build relationships and trust with our patients, which help them heal and get back to their families. If nurses are constantly leaving because of poor working conditions, moral distress, and unfair compensation, the quality of patient care suffers.”

  • Who:       RNs at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, faith leaders, President of the Board of Aldermen Megan Green, local labor leaders
  • What:      Rally to demand a fair contract
  • Where:   SLU Hospital, 1201 S Grand Blvd St Louis, MO 63104
  • When:    Tuesday, June 18, 5:30 pm

“We know that retention and recruitment are critical to providing safe and optimal patient care,” said Kellie Allen, RN in the step-down unit at SLUH. “It is unconscionable that management will not include any cost of living increase in our contract, given the rising costs of groceries, gas, and rent. Nurses have been leaving to work at other hospitals. Their last proposal falls short in ensuring nurse retention and that we will have safe staffing.”

The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing shows that, in Missouri and across the country, there is no nurse “shortage.” In fact, in Missouri, there are more than 38,000 RNs with active licenses who are not working as nurses in the state. Nationwide, there are more than a million registered nurses with active licenses who are choosing not to work at the bedside because of the hospital industry’s unsafe working conditions. More data and information debunking the nurse “shortage” myth can be found here.

The RNs held strikes in September and December 2023 and an informational picket in July 2023 to raise attention to issues of patient safety and nurse retention.

National Nurses Organizing Committee has represented nurses at Saint Louis University Hospital since 2012.

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.