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CGH staff considering forming a union

STERLING – Staff at city-owned CGH Medical Center are meeting with union representatives to discuss forming a union.

Three meetings were held Tuesday at Steelworkers Hall, 502 Woodburn Ave., where representatives from Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union and workers now represented by AFSCME spoke to CGH nurses and other staff interested in forming a union.

Conversations between hospital staff and the union have “intensified” over the past few days and meeting turnout was “encouraging,” AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said

“What they want is to have a say in the policies and procedures that can improve staffing, that can result in better patient care, that can reduce staff turnover and that can ensure fair and equitable treatment for employees,” Lindall said.

Jodi Thompson, a registered nurse at CGH who’s worked at the hospital for 27 years, loves the hospital and the community it serves, she said.

“CGH, we rock,” Thompson said. “We want to make CGH as strong as we can; it has to have strong leaders and strong workers.”

A major driving force behind the push to unionize is to better serve the community, and that means keeping its commitment to the community by retaining staff, Thompson said.

Employees feel respected, but they’re losing staff to other counties and there’s also a concern with safety in the emergency room, she said.

“This is a much bigger picture than us employees. This is about the community,” Thompson said.

The effort to unionize isn’t limited to nurses – the discussions include other hospital workers, such as clerical staff, maintenance workers and nurses aides, Lindall said.

“What nurses and all other CGH employees have in common is that they want to be respected on the job, and they want to have a voice at work because they’re the ones on the frontlines,” Lindall said.

The city is staying neutral on the formation of a union, and wouldn’t sell the hospital if the staff formed a union, Mayor Skip Lee said.

“The city itself does not have a role in this per se, because the city is not involved in the day-to-day management of the hospital,” Lee said. “We appoint the board, approve their bond and decide to sell the hospital. I’m committed to keeping the hospital local, and so does the board.”

Lee, a former teacher and union member for 38 years, said he sees forming a union as a right, but being a member has its “positives and negatives.”

“I can argue for both sides. It’s not my place to tell the nurses what’s in their best interest,” Lee said.

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