Vineyard nurses vote to unionize

Thirty-one ambulatory nurses at Martha's Vineyard Hospital join union. —Eunki Seonwoo

Thirty-one ambulatory nurses at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital are now part of the state’s largest union of registered nurses and health professionals.

Massachusetts Nurses Association, or MNA, represents more than 23,000 members in 85 healthcare facilities across the commonwealth, including other nurses at the Island’s hospital.

The local nurses say they’ll now have a protected voice to bargain under the union.

Previously employed by a physician’s group that was acquired by the hospital, the ambulatory nurses were not recognized “under the existing hospital RN collective bargaining agreement” for the hospital’s other staff, Joe Markman, associate director of communications for the union, said. 

The ambulatory nurses provide 24/7 medical services to patients often experiencing mild conditions in an outpatient setting. 

The group filed to join the union May 20 with the National Labor Relations Board after the hospital denied a voluntary recognition request of unionization. 

Denial meant the union had to file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, to hold a secret ballot election. The NLRB then held a hearing on the petition and arranged for an election. A mail-in election began on June 12, and ballots were counted July 2. The ambulatory nurses received a successful NLRB vote count with 22 yay votes and 4 nays.

They needed a simple majority to win, Markman said.

“Today at the NLRB in Boston, MVH ambulatory nurses won the election, enabling them to [join] the Massachusetts Nurses Association,” Robin Bagwell, one of the hospital’s ambulatory nurses, said July 2 in a statement provided by the union. “We are excited to be joining our colleagues, who are already MNA members, as we continue to provide the finest patient care in our community.”

In the election, the hospital, affiliated with Mass General Brigham, had the opportunity to challenge the unionization, but didn’t, Markman said.

“We recognize that this election is part of a continuing national trend among healthcare providers seeking collective bargaining through union representation,” Claire Seguin, chief nurse and the Island hospital’s vice president of operations, said in a statement to The Times. “We remain focused on providing safe, high-quality care to our community, and working collaboratively with our valued nurses.”

The ambulatory nurses will become part of the other nurses’ existing contract, but now have the ability to bargain and update provisions to include issues that are particular to them. The new bargaining unit will meld with the old unit, Markman said.

Excluding ambulatory nurses, MNA said 103 nurses at the hospital are unionized with the association, while the hospital said the number was closer to 60 employees.

Joe Markman, associate director of communications for the union, said the discrepancy is probably because 42 of those nurses work per diem.

“This means they are MNA nurses at MVH, but do not have permanent schedules like the other nurses. They pick up a certain number of shifts per schedule period,” Markman said. “The hospital may not be counting them in its roster.”