Services employees at St. Louis University and Des Peres hospitals vote to unionize

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In what SEIU Communications Director Mike Truppa called a hopeful sign of things to come, service employees at Tenet Health Care Corp.-owned St. Louis University Hospital (SLUH) and Des Peres Hospital voted overwhelming to join SEIU Healthcare IL/IN/MO/KS.

The vote by techs, nursing assistants and other service and maintenance workers gives organized labor a critical foothold in the local health care market, making SLUH and Des Peres the city’s only currently SEIU unionized hospitals.

“We think this represents a pretty significant watershed and a sign, hopefully, of things to come,” Truppa said.

A bargaining unit of over 500 workers at SLUH and 200 workers at Des Peres united for a stronger voice in patient care decisions and securing a better future for their families. They join the 9,000 other Tenet-affiliated workers in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and California who are already united in SEIU Healthcare.

Services employees at SLUH voted June 12 to have SEIU represent them in contract negotiations with Tenet. The vote was 216 in favor to 85 against.

Services employees at Des Peres voted June 14, with 91 voting in favor of the union to 65 against.

“I think now we’re all together on the same page with the same mission, which is making sure our patients are taken care of,” Jessica Harris, a respiratory therapist at SLUH said.

“We were victorious because of the care we have for our patients and have for each other as coworkers. We all have the same goal for utmost patient safety and patient care, the same high standard we would expect for ourselves.

Harris comes from a long line of unionists – her grandfather, father and cousin have all been Laborers –

and said she is proud to be continuing the union tradition.

“I have many family members who helped build our city and they were all in unions that helped them fight to secure fair wages and benefits to provide for us growing up,” Harris said. “I’m hopeful that together with my coworkers we too can improve our jobs and patient care.”

Patrice Odom, a Care Partner in the ICU at SLUH, said workers had a choice to make and voted to unite in SEIU Healthcare to gain a stronger voice on the issues they care about.

“Alone it’s difficult to make change but by joining this union we can make a difference for our families and for our patients because we will have one united voice at our hospital,” Odom said.

The vote by the service employees represents the second vote by employees to unionize at SLUH.

Nurses at SLUH voted overwhelmingly June 7 to certify National Nurses United (NNU) to represent them in contract negotiations with Tenet.

Nurses at Des Peres are scheduled to hold an authorization vote for NNU on June 22.

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