CHI St. Alexius Nurses Taking Steps to Unionize

A group of nurses at CHI St. Alexius are trying, for a second time, to unionize. Our Malique Rankin sat down with one of those nurses to understand how forming a union could help patients.

Leslie Wenger is a nurse at CHI St. Alexius hospital. She says unionizing is a necessary step to improve patient care.

Leslie Wenger; RN at CHI: “Nurses are the ones at the bedside providing care to our patients. And right now we feel like the best way to continue in providing the best care we can, is to come together collectively so we can have a voice in the type of care we provide.”

KX News asked what areas of patient care could be improved through a union. The nurses say they don’t want to specify their concerns until the vote.

Wenger: “Again this is all about nurses coming together so our voice is heard.”

CHI St. Alexius sent this statement, hoping their staff votes to keep things the way they are.

“Next week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will hold an election during which the nurses of CHI St. Alexius Health will decide whether they would like the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) to represent them, or whether they would prefer to maintain the direct relationship we currently enjoy with our nurses. 

“While we respect the right of our nurses to participate in a democratic election, it is our hope that our nurses, like they did 18 months ago, will vote to preserve our direct working relationship, enabling us to enhance the ways we work together to serve our patients. 

“For 133 years, CHI St. Alexius Health has been dedicated to providing high quality health care in our community. We believe that healing environments are best fostered when we can work directly with each other. Together we are stronger, healthier, better.”

Through a union, nurses would be able to negotiate pay and staffing. Wenger says they provide great care at the hospital now, but there is room for improvements. We asked Wenger what areas could use improvement and she asked us to stop recording the on-camera interview. Off camera, Wenger was visibly uncomfortable in discussing the concerns the nurses are facing at the hospital.

Last year, the vote to unionize narrowly failed 151-158. Wenger says the momentum wasn’t lost.

Wenger: “I just think we’ve had more time to get our message across, come together and talk to people.”

About 300 nurses at CHI will vote on unionizing early next week. A simple majority is needed. If the decision to unionize passes on Wednesday, bargaining could begin as soon as the next day.

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