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Alle-Kiski Medical Center support staff unionize

HARRISON — Support staff at Alle-Kiski Medical Center agreed to unionize Thursday night.

Service and maintenance workers voted 178-123 to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Nearly 60 percent of the votes cast were in favor of unionizing. There were 370 workers eligible to vote; 301 did, according to a federal labor relations official who announced the results last night.

Nurses at the hospital voted to join the same union in May.

About 40 people looked on as the votes were counted at the hospital conference center.

As results were announced, union supporters celebrated.

Many union supporters wore "united for quality care" buttons and pins, and some kept track of the tally in notebooks.

Voting was held in three shifts Thursday, beginning at 6 a.m. Employees were asked, yes or no, to whether they wanted to be represented by the union. A simple majority was needed.

Jane Davis, a phlebotomist, said she was elated about joining the union. In the moments after the announcement, she was fighting not to cry.

"We definitely worked hard for it," she said, "And believe me, it's not for us. It's for our patients (and the) community."

Now, she said, the support staff will have a voice.

Ashley Dodd, a nurse's aide, said she was nervous the entire time votes were being tallied, but she didn't doubt the outcome.

"It's important to be together with the nurses and improve the hospital, to work with management and make it the best place," Dodd said.

The hospital expects that the SEIU will share in its commitment to health and strategic priorities, said Alle-Kiski Medical Center spokeswoman Linda Jaskolka.

"Our only comment is that we value our employees, and we're committed to working with them as a team to address the challenges we face in the health care industry," Jaskolka said.

According to an SEIU statement issued late Thursday, issues of concern to employees are: improving staffing in each level of the hospital; improving benefits and compensation to recognize years of service; improving worker retention; and securing a voice for employees.

The hospital's support staff were once members of United Food and Commercial Workers for about four years but voted to leave that union in 2007.

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