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Texas: Hundreds of nurses strike for adequate patient care

By staff

Striking nurses on the picket line in Austin, TX.

Austin, TX – On Tuesday, June 27, over 200 nurses and supporters formed a picket in 100-degree weather outside of Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin. A part of the historic one-day strike of over 2000 nurses across Texas and Kansas, National Nurses United members authorized the strike by 98%.

Vanessa Villarreal, a nurse on the picket line said, “I'm a NICU nurse, so I take care of patients as small as my hand. I'm a mom and I shouldn't have to choose between taking care of my own baby and two others at work.” Villarreal continued, “I don't do it for the money, I love taking care of babies. But I also didn't become a nurse to be dragged through the dirt. The hospital has the money, but they don't want to negotiate.”

Starting in September of 2023, nurses at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin voted 72% in favor to join NNOC/NNU, with the primary complaint being the poor quality of patient care. Beginning before the COVID-19 pandemic came to the U.S., Ascension began short-staffing their hospitals to raise their profit margins, creating unsafe working conditions for nurses and a potentially dangerous situation for patients. Because of this short-staffing, there are 128,000 registered nurses in Texas alone who either cannot find work in their field or are choosing not to due to the poor conditions at work.

Ascension is registered as a non-profit that provides “spiritually-centered holistic care,” but mistreats and understaffs its nurses so the CEO can take home $13 million a year. Despite their aim supposedly being to provide care for the communities they operate in, Ascension operates 13 investment accounts that are worth $41 billion and have $19 billion in cash reserves.

In response to the strike authorization, the management at Ascension is choosing to do a three-day lockout of all striking nurses. This move shows the bankruptcy of Ascension's supposed care of both their employees and the patients that are treated there.

Kris Fuentes, a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit said, “Ascension’s dangerous staffing practices disrupt our ability to provide quality care and it puts our patients at risk every day. This is a clear sign Ascension would rather use its vast resources to delay improvement than to invest in the care our patients and our communities deserve with appropriate staffing.”

Other unions, including AFSCME and IBEW, came out to support in solidarity of the strike and stood on the picket line. All in all, over 200 people came out to the picket, showing the greater community support for the nurses’ struggle.

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