By CAROLINE MURRAY
About 60 nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses at the River Ridge Living Center in Amsterdam are joining forces with Teamsters Union Local 249.
Teamsters President John Bulgaro said an election at the living center Monday confirmed an overwhelming majority of nurses are in favor of unionizing. He said the action will be official once the election is certified by the National Labor Relations Board in three to five days, provided there are no objections.
"The biggest issue was the vote, and it went in favor of the union. For an objection to be viable it would have to be a violation, and we don't see any violation in the process," Bulgaro said.
He said different employees from the center's bargaining unit approached the Teamsters with concerns about their economic package and conditions of employment. The nurses asked for their help addressing these issues and with representation.
"What we found there was a great deal of a majority of people who felt that way," Bulgaro said.
The 60 or so employees then signed a petition, which the Teamsters sent to the board.
Bulgaro said the board then held a secret ballot election, and the workers voted to be represented by Teamsters Local 249.
"It is not the employer's choice to join the union, it is the choice of the workers, and that seems to be getting lost in a lot of people's minds lately," Bulgaro said
The center's administrator Heather Daw said the River Ridge owners collaboratively came up with a statement. The statement says they respect the employees right to elect a union to represent them.
"We intend to work together with the Teamsters Union and employees to negotiate a fair and reasonable contract. As always, the highest quality patient care is our primary focus, and that will be sure to continue at River Ridge Living Center," the statement read.
Bulgaro would not disclose what the employees' financial concerns were or their problems with the work conditions.
Cathy VanVoorst, the director of nursing, did not return phone calls for comment.
Bulgaro said once the election is certified, the Teamsters will hold a meeting with the nurses' bargaining unit. During the meeting, they will discuss proposals for contracts, which will pinpoint their issues.
"It would be premature for me to speak on that until they get a chance to voice," he said.
Bulgaro said there are several benefits to the nurses joining the union, such as contract negotiations, the ability to come together and speak as one voice, collectively bargaining with the employer, and protection of violations or inappropriate action by the employer.