Vote Could Boost Nurses’ Union Hopes
Two union-backed candidates won seats on the board that controls Antelope Valley Hospital, giving new hope to labor organizers in their struggle to form a nurses union at the 350-bed facility.
June Snow and Don Parazo, both endorsed by the California Nurses Assn., were the top vote-getters in a seven-candidate race for two open seats. They replace incumbents Chairman Gary Hill and Vice Chairman Don Bean on the five-member board of the Antelope Valley Health Care District.
Snow, a former nurse at the hospital, received 27% of the vote, and Parazo, a physician, picked up 23% of the more than 76,000 votes cast.
The current board unanimously opposed attempts by registered nurses in May to form a union at the Lancaster hospital and hired attorneys to fight the unionization vote in court.
Snow said Wednesday that she plans to introduce a motion when she takes office in December that would effectively end the board’s opposition to the unionization effort. Parazo said he would support such a motion.
“It’s a waste of patient-care dollars,” said Snow of the anti-union stance.
Snow and Parazo said they hope to gain the vote of another board member to give union backers the majority they need.
Board member Abdallah Farrukh said Wednesday he would consider supporting such a motion, but he would want assurances that unionization would not affect patient care.
“I want to make sure a strike doesn’t happen at our institution,” he said. “And I’d have to be convinced that a union would [increase] the number of nurses.”
Board treasurer Steve Fox said he still believes the nurses’ votes to form a union were invalid because they were not taken in secret, as a health district regulation stipulates.
“The right of self-determination is a decision employees should make in a secret ballot election,” he said.
The fifth board member, Deborah Rice, could not be reached on Wednesday.
Nurses association officials say a majority of registered nurses filled out cards indicating their preference for a union in the May vote, believing that the hospital had to recognize them under a new state law. The hospital board, however, has maintained that the district regulation takes precedence.
In October, a state Public Employment Relations Board judge ruled that the hospital must recognize the cards. The health care district is appealing that decision.
Although uncertain about having a majority of the board behind them, nurses association officials still hailed Tuesday’s vote as a victory.
“It was only the board that was holding this up,” said Liz Jacobs, a spokeswoman for the nurses. “I would assume they’d want to move on.”
Dwindling health-care choices in the high desert have brought increased attention to Antelope Valley Hospital. The valley’s population grew by about 27%, to 318,000, in the last decade while two of five area hospitals closed. Due to budget cuts, the county-run High Desert Hospital in Lancaster could end its inpatient services by March.