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Nurses at California Hospital Vote to Join Union

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Tracy, CAStatutes, which provide ongoing guidance and governance for employers and how their employees are treated and managed according to state laws, are often stronger when a union comes into play. Now, an employer is dealing with a collective speaking as one voice, rather than a series of individuals. Adherence to overtime pay laws and other legislation governing employees in the workplace tends to be more consistent in a union shop.

To that end, registered nurses employed by Sutter Tracy Community Hospital voted in March to join the California Nurses Association, according to the Sacramento Business Journal (3/16/12). While no complaints with regard to specifics such as overtime pay or workers compensation settlements were articulated, there were allegations that Sutter Tracy attempted to interfere with the organization process through the removal of posted election materials, the questioning of nurses and other alleged activities.

"We've been very successful in organizing new groups or RNs throughout California and the nation," union spokeswoman Liz Jacobs said, in comments published in the Sacramento Business Journal. "It's a hard thing for any worker to get a union, let alone a first contract—and this campaign shows why."

A spokesperson for Sutter Tracy claimed, in deference to union charges, that the facility complied with the legal process required for such organizing activity.

State statutes such as overtime laws exist to protect the worker from being taken advantage of in the workplace, and help to shield employees from unfair practices on the part of employers bent on exploiting their workers for personal or financial gain. Attempts to misclassify workers in a bid to avoid the provision of overtime pay, the denial of meal breaks and rest periods, and shoddy record-keeping and paying employees for fewer hours than actually worked, are often attempted or undertaken by employers thumbing their nose at the law.

It's a bit harder to do with a union.

At Sutter Tracy, however, the vote was close nonetheless: a total of 83 nurses voted in favor of unionizing, while 70 voted against it.

"Yes, it was a close vote," Jacobs said in comments published in the Sacramento Business Journal. "This was one of the most vicious anti-union assaults on nurses we've seen for a while."

More Sutter hospitals are unionized than not, with 16 out of 26 having union representation amongst nursing staff.

Nurses comprise the front-line workers at hospitals, toiling long hours in stress-laden, highly charged environments. Meal breaks and rest periods help to avoid burnout that could affect the health of both nurse and patient. Overtime pay, according to California overtime law, is important for those nurses working additional hours over and above their regularly scheduled compliment.

Union representation, advocates say, allow the enforcement of statutes such as overtime pay laws with a greater degree of certainty.

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