St. Mary’s Hospital

Nurses at St. Mary’s, above, voted 221-85.

Nurses from Carondelet Health Network-owned St. Joseph’s Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital voted to unionize, officials confirmed Friday.

St. Joseph’s nurses voted 293-100 on Oct. 9 to join the largest union in the country for registered nurses, advance practice nurses and RN organizations. On Oct. 11, St. Mary’s nurses voted 221-85 to do the same.

The voting was by secret ballot and was conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. The nurses will be joining the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United.

Carondelet Health Network officials said they would respect the nurses’ decision to be represented by the union and will work with them to reach a “mutually beneficial collective bargaining agreement.” Carondelet is owned by the Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp.

Arizona is a right-to-work state, meaning nurses are not required to join a union as a condition of employment, nor must they pay union dues, even if they benefit from union actions.

St. Mary’s Robin Nandin, said she’s been a nurse for 40 years and was never interested in joining a union until recently.

Nandin said she voted to join the union because hospital ownership by an out-of-state company diminished the influence local nurses had. “Nurses used to have a voice,” she said.

“(Corporations) are telling hospital administration what to do and they’re telling us what to do. It’s the mother ship sending down edicts,” leaving little room for “collaborative conversation,” Nandin said. “Nurses have to take back their practice to protect patients and themselves.”

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For example, she said that the number of nurses assigned to a unit is determined by the number of patients. She’d rather see the number of nurses on hand be based on patient need and hopes that her membership will make her concerns heard.

These votes affect only these two hospitals, and does not include Carondelet’s Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales.

Next, St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s nurses will choose a team to represent them in negotiations with hospital officials in their first collective bargaining contract, according to a union statement Friday.

The national union now represents 14 Tenet hospitals, employing 6,000 nurses in four states including California, Texas and Florida. Overall the union has more than 150,000 members in every state.

Contact Mikayla Mace at mmace@tucson.com or 573-4158.