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FRESHFARM workers ratify union agreement
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 15, 2024

GW Hospital nurses vote to unionize after monthslong organizing effort

Erika Filter | Staff Photographer
Nurses and District of Columbia Nurses Association organizers gathered in Washington Circle to support the union effort last week.

Nurses at GW Hospital voted to form a union in election results tallied Saturday.

Nurses voted 310-207 last Wednesday through Saturday to allow the District of Columbia Nurses Association to represent them in the workplace after more than four months of organizing. Ed Smith, DCNA’s executive director, said approximately 85 percent of eligible GW Hospital nurses voted in the election.

Smith said DCNA will now seek nurses’ feedback — including those who voted against the union — on priorities for contract negotiation and interim leadership on the bargaining team. He said after this process, DCNA will send GW Hospital a demand letter.

“That’s the whole purpose of organizing,” he said.

Nurses gathered at Washington Circle on the first day of voting last week to rally in support of the effort after first announcing their efforts to form a union in February.

DCNA Staff Attorney Kenneth Page said in May that hospital management allegedly removed union literature and dissuaded nurses from joining the union, causing organizers to shift their organizing methods by holding town halls over Zoom.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) wrote a letter last week to GW Hospital CEO Kimberly Russo asking the hospital to refrain from interfering in the election. He said in the letter he “strongly” supports nurses’ efforts to unionize and is “deeply concerned” by allegations of the hospital’s anti-union efforts.

Multiple unionization efforts at other hospitals’ Universal Health Services oversees, like those at medical centers in PennsylvaniaCalifornia and Nevada, have failed.

Angelo Estrellas, a former clinical supervisor who GW Hospital management allegedly suspended and later terminated, said he voted in the union election despite hospital management attributing his dismissal to his involvement in union organizing.

He said he believes he is more likely to be reinstated to his position now that nurses have voted in favor of the union.

“I have a feeling, yes,” Estrellas said.

A petition to reinstate Estrellas has garnered more than 2,300 signatures as of Monday. Eight D.C. Council members and D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson signed a letter to Russo in May requesting the hospital immediately reinstate Estrellas.

Estrellas said the hospital disputed his unemployment benefits after terminating him, leading him to withdraw funds from his 401(k) plan. Page filed a wrongful termination lawsuit on Estrellas’ behalf in March and refiled the complaint in April.

Estrellas said he hopes the union improves the nurse-to-patient ratios at the hospital, improves nurse pay and protects nurses from workplace violence.

“Downtown D.C., it’s really tough to work,” he said. “I mean, the abuse is there, verbal, physical from patients.”

Augusta MacQueen, a registered nurse at GW Hospital and a union organizer, said one of the biggest challenges in organizing the union was understanding conditions for nurses in other units because the hospital made it difficult for nurses across units to communicate with one another.

“They really kept us very separate,” she said.

She said she hopes the union will promote patient safety and pay transparency and that all nurses, including those who opposed the union, will have input on the union’s priorities.

“It will really ultimately be up to our nurses, and that includes the nurses who voted no,” MacQueen said. “So we are one unit. We represent everybody now.”

Max Porter contributed reporting. 

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About the Contributor
Erika Filter, News Editor
Erika Filter is a senior majoring in international affairs from Carson City, Nevada. She leads the Metro beat as one of The Hatchet's 2023-2024 news editors and previously served as the assistant news editor for the Student Government beat.
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