As a registered nurse currently employed with The HealthCenter at Kalispell Regional Healthcare, I am writing to explain my opposition to SEIU unionization of nurses employed at KRH.
Let me start by saying I am in no way trying to dismiss accusations, hardships, staffing problems or unfair/unsafe working conditions put upon the nursing staff, create any spin on events that have happened in the past, or simply deny the fact that nurses felt like they had no voice. Nor do I blame the nursing staff at the hospital for wanting to bring in a union, as they do want what is best for the patient, and they want to provide care in a safe and supportive environment. We all know this was lacking with previous administration, and some of those in management and leadership. As an employee at the HealthCenter Surgical Center, the environment is much different and I feel for the most part, employees are generally satisfied with their work conditions and believe our patients get great care.
Montana is not a right-to-work state. Therefore, if a union is voted in, all of us opposed are forced to join and pay dues. The problem I have, is I personally do not want my dues given to an organization that heavily funds a political platform that I am strongly opposed to – both in my faith and my moral convictions. This goes against my constitutional rights and politics should not be brought into our work environment. Under the federal Civil Rights Act, we may request that the SEIU direct a portion of a portion of our dues to a political platform and/or charity of our choice; however, it can be difficult and a union has the right to delegate where those funds go. Again, we are forced to pay into the union in order to work.
In the last few weeks, we have been afforded the opportunity to hear from our leaders. Our new president and CEO, Dr. Craig Lambrecht, hosted several open forums for every staff member to attend. I highly encourage everyone to research him, his history as a physician and highly decorated retired medical officer of the Army National Guard. There are so many of us that support him, his vision for KRH and the desire to remain independent. He does not use scare tactics, intimidation and has stated he will not tolerate bullying of any kind, from any staff. A vote to unionize will ultimately affect every staff member in one way or another. It is the hope of many nurses, physicians and other staff that we give him some time to continue his focus on repairing the damage and moving us forward before we jump into a tumultuous, expensive, divisive and unpredictable contract with the SEIU.
Lastly, I have heard that if the nurses become unionized, some of our physicians will leave the hospital for various reasons. That could mean patients requiring specialty services may again be forced to travel to other areas for care they were previously receiving here. Many people in our community are grateful to be able to keep their families here for their health care and cannot afford to go elsewhere.
It is my hope that we all come together, support our new CEO, his vision for our hospital, its employees, and community and make a success story out of this. Please, let’s support him and give him a chance - one year. As nurses, we should continue to take advantage of his open-door invite to work together and make solutions that are fair to all.
Shelly Olbert, of Kalispell, is an RN at The HealthCenter at Kalispell Regional Healthcare