TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale was joined today by fellow legislators and nursing union representative at a press conference in Trenton to announce his support for nurses’ labor rights and kick off Nurses’ Week, which begins on May 6.
“Our State’s nursing workforce is constantly stepping up to provide topnotch health care in New Jersey’s hospitals, doctors’ offices, and nursing homes,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “Now, we need to stand up for them, and protect their rights to organize and bargain collectively at the negotiating table.”
At the news conference, held with the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) union and the AFL-CIO, Senator Vitale noted that a recent set of decisions from the National Labor Relations Board opens up the possibility for hospitals to reclassify “charge” nurses, who are responsible for assigning patient care responsibilities on a given shift, as supervising staff, thereby removing their union protection. Senator Vitale said that, even though “charge” nurses serve in a supervisory role, “that does not make them any less deserving of union benefits.”
“‘Charge’ nurses take on added responsibility to help the hospital run smoothly and administer the best possible healthcare to the patients,” said Senator Vitale. “These nurses should not be penalized for their added responsibility by removing their right to organize. Without tools such as collective bargaining, hospitals will have an unfair advantage when it comes to contract negotiations for ‘charge’ nurses, and could potentially eviscerate the benefits and salary protections that the nursing unions so effectively fight for.”
Senator Vitale added that jeopardizing union protection for “charge” nurses could devastate health care in the Garden State.
“Nurses are the front line in health care, and we need to compensate them fairly and justly,” said Senator Vitale. “Unions like the HPAE and the AFL-CIO act as our health care conscience, advocating for the nurses they represent, and ensuring that our nurses aren’t taken advantage of for their hard work and dedication. Any attempts to erode union protection for nurses should be rejected by anyone who cares about health care in the Garden State.”