by Brenée Goforth
Media Manager & Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
North Carolina is in the middle of a union battle at Mission Hospital in Asheville. On September 4, 2020, The Daily News reported on the union ballot initiative’s potential implications across the state. Brian Gordon reported for the Jacksonville newspaper:
“You definitely know that it’s bigger than just the hospital,” [Mission Hospital nurse Staphanie] Jones said.
Politicians, labor experts, and advocates say the votes of 1,600 nurses in Western North Carolina have significant political and financial implications. HCA Healthcare, which owns 178 hospitals across the country, including Mission, stands to lose millions if the union succeeds. National Nurses United, the largest nurses’ union in the United States, stands to gain hundreds of dues-paying members in what would be the NNU’s largest union at an HCA-affiliated facility.
Pro- and anti-union advocates say a labor victory at Mission would open the door for more aggressive organizing efforts in North Carolina, one of the nation’s least unionized states.
Gordon quoted JLF’s Becki Gray for the story writing:
“What happens in Western North Carolina, with this National Nurses Union movement at Mission Hospital has huge implications for where they could spread across the states,” said Becki Gray, senior vice president at the Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank.
Gray, who has lived in North Carolina for 50 years, said the Mission campaign is the largest union effort in recent memory and believes it could inspire other hospital staff to organize. Aside from VA hospitals, nurses aren’t unionized in North Carolina.
Both sides of the union battle have thrown many resources into the fight:
Mission had posted anti-union signs in the hospital hallways and hired a labor-relations firm to conduct voluntary information meetings to persuade nurses to vote “No”. A few weeks ago, the hospital changed its computer screensavers to show anti-union messages.
Pro-union nurses have countered by handing out flyers outside hospital grounds and signing petitions calling for better work conditions. The NNU also purchased a radio advertisement.
Many labor experts predict, if successful, this union effort could spill into the education sector. Gordan writes:
Gray sees the efforts in Asheville’s hospital align with recent organizing efforts of the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE), the state’s largest educator advocacy organization. She fears unionizing in both sectors are politically motivated and will drive up costs and inefficiencies…
In March, four days after Mission nurses petitioned to form a union, the [Asheville City Association of Educators] and the Buncombe County Association of Educators publicly lent their support to their local hospital’s union push.