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Hundreds of nurses at Wichita’s St. Francis hospital vote to unionize 

St Francis Hospital
Hugo Phan
/
KMUW
St. Francis is an Ascension Via Christi hospital in downtown Wichita.

They are organizing with National Nurses United, the largest registered nurses union in the country.

More than 600 registered nurses at St. Francis hospital in Wichita will be represented by a union.

The nurses voted 378-194 in favor of organizing with the National Nurses United, which is the largest union of registered nurses in the country.

The election was held Wednesday and Thursday. The union says the bargaining unit at St. Francis will include more than 650 nurses.

Ascension Via Christi St. Francis is the largest hospital in Wichita. It’s the first hospital in the city’s private sector with unionized registered nurses.

In a release, union president Deborah Burger, a registered nurse, welcomed St. Francis nurses to the union.

“We salute your impressive and enthusiastic campaign and look forward to working with you to achieve better conditions for nurses and patients at St. Francis and across the country,” she said in a statement.

St. Francis is part of the Ascension Via Christi network, which includes a number of hospitals around the state. Ascension is one of the largest nonprofit hospital chains in the U.S., with 143 hospitals and other health care facilities across 19 states.

In a statement emailed to KMUW, Kevin Strecker, senior vice president of Ascension Kansas, said Ascension is "disappointed" that registered nurses voted for union representation at St. Francis.

"We strongly believe we can be most effective working collaboratively without union representation. We respect the voting process and are committed to ensuring it is followed during the vote certification period."

The release from the union says the nurses organized to more effectively advocate for better working conditions and pay.

The nurses will now elect a team to represent them in negotiations for their first contract with Ascension. That process includes surveying the registered nurses about key bargaining points.

National Nurses United has more than 225,000 members. Overall, about 20% of registered nurses in the U.S. are union members.

The Kansas State Nurses Association says there are more than 50,000 registered nurses in the state.

Daniel Caudill is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. He was a reporter, photographer and digital content manager for The Derby Informer and an editor and reporter for The Sunflower. In the spring of 2020, Daniel helped cover the legislative session in Topeka as an intern for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @CaudillKMUW.