Workers at Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C., voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to join together in a union, overcoming an intimidation campaign by hospital management. In doing so, they gained a voice in the workplace to improve patient care and address such issues as short staffing and stagnant wages.
The 185 workers include patient care technicians, emergency room technicians, secretaries and more who are now members of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees – 1199DC (NUHHCE), AFSCME. They voted by 93 percent in favor of unionization.
“I want our voice to be recognized,” said Ellsworth Rucker, an emergency room technician who helped organize his co-workers. “The people on the front lines who work directly with patients have a lot to contribute and they should be listened to.”
Dorothea Staton, a patient care technician, said after the victory was announced that a union was “well needed and overdue.”
“I’m feeling great right now,” she said. “I needed this in my life I don’t know how many years ago. … There’s a light at the end of my tunnel, a big one.”
Providence Hospital is part of Ascension, which bills itself the nation’s largest non-profit hospital system and the world’s largest Catholic hospital chain. In 2016, Ascension’s CEO received more than $8.2 million in total compensation while the hospital’s most senior employees struggle to make ends meet.
One such employee, Wanda Tolliver, who has worked at the hospital for 44 years as a nurse’s assistant and secretary, makes just $18.78 an hour, just a few dollars above the D.C. minimum wage.
“It’s embarrassing when I go to buy a vehicle and tell them how much I make,” Tolliver said.
AFSCME members serve the public with pride, often going above and beyond to make their communities better. They never quit on their neighbors and their union never quits on them. As members of AFSCME, our sisters and brothers at Providence Hospital will be part of the largest and boldest public-sector union in the country. We welcome them.