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Nurses at Southern Ocean Medical Center vote to stay in union

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Unionized nurses at Southern Ocean Medical Center have overwhelmingly voted to remain members of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union, the HPAE said Thursday.

Of the 87 percent of nurses who voted Tuesday and Wednesday, 85 percent said yes to remaining members of HPAE, New Jersey’s largest union of nurses and health care professionals.

“Since our Local’s first vote to form our union in 2003, we have stood together to fight for protections that have improved patient safety and the workplace environment. Those improvements have allowed for the recruitment and retention of experienced nursing staff,” said Barbara Bosch, president of HPAE Local 5138, in a statement.

In 2003, SOMC was a standalone community hospital. Since then it affiliated first with Meridian Health, which in 2016 became Hackensack Meridian Health.

According to the union, voting was initiated following after an aggressive antiunion campaign during the last five months of negotiations, with a small group of nurses petitioned for an election. HPAE has accused HMH of attempting to take away protections the nurses had established in their previous contracts.

“Our nurses have sent a clear message to Hackensack Meridian that we will continue to stand together to protect patients and our rights. We will continue to demand the administration at SOMC listen to their professionals on the front lines of providing treatment and care every day at our community hospital,” said HPAE President Debbie White in a statement.

"Registered nurses at Southern Ocean Medical Center voted against decertifying the union," said Nancy Radwin, senior director of public relations at Hackensack Meridian Health. "We respect their decision and will continue to negotiate in good faith with the union for a new contract with team members at Southern Ocean Medical Center. We have bargaining sessions scheduled this week..."

Unionized nurses will return to the bargaining table today to negotiate contracts for the 300 nurses of HPAE Local 5138 at Southern Ocean Medical Center and 1,100 nurses of HPAE Local 5058 at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. The contracts of both locals expired in July.

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Anthony Vecchione

Anthony Vecchione covers health care for NJBIZ. You can contact him at: Avecchione@njbiz.com.

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