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It all started, says Jane Wooton, because of the patients.
St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, a leading health care institution in Toledo, Ohio, "started taking away our vacation and increasing our patient loads," recalls Wooton, a respiratory therapist. "I felt like my license was in jeopardy because I had too many patients."
Seeking to improve conditions for workers and for patients, Wooton and her co-workers started talking about forming a union. Eight respiratory therapists attended the first meeting. From there, union support spread throughout the hospital.
In October 1999, a majority of 2,700 nurses, support staff and technical workers voted to join the UAW. Six months later, in April 2000, 2,900 workers at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Mich., also voted to join the UAW.
Does a union like the UAW — with strong roots in manufacturing — really make sense for health care workers? You bet it does, says Cathie Booher, then a nurse at St. Vincent's.
"The UAW isn't about cars or trucks," she says. "It's about people. It's about bringing workers to the table, and giving us a voice in the decisions that matter to us."
"For hospital workers, that means we can work to improve the care we give to our patients. We understand health care. We know the issues. And nobody understands collective bargaining like the UAW. It's a great combination."
If you are interested in organizing your workplace with the UAW, contact our Organizing Department or call 1-800 2GET-UAW (1-800-243-8829). You'll be connected to (or get a call back from) a UAW organizer who can answer questions and tell you what it takes to organize a union at your workplace.
If you're in Canada, call 1-800-387-0538 to reach UAW Local 251, a Canadian UAW local union that helps Canadian workers organize.