Unionization for staff at Seattle Blue Pearl location
After months of preparation, eligible employees at Blue Pearl in north Seattle last week voted overwhelmingly to unionize with the National Veterinary Professionals Union (NPVU). It’s NVPU’s first contract. Efforts began in April when signature cards requesting representation by NVPU were collected from 86% of the non-supervisory hospital employees followed by a petition to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to supervise an election. Of the 52 eligible employees, 92% voted in favor of the contract.
Going forward, the staff will form a negotiating committee to determine their priorities and start the bargaining process with the Blue Pearl home office, which could take up to a year or more.
Veterinarians were not included in the contract. Employees are divided into separate bargaining units with similar occupation and responsibility, and veterinarians are considered to have separate interests from other staff members.
“Staffing and wages were the priorities that drove this,” Dr. David Gill commented. Gill, an emergency medicine practitioner at the Blue Pearl location, expressed concern over retaining staff. “We’re losing technical staff left and right, which is causing a lot of stress on the floor, especially in ICU or overnight. They’re leaving for other careers because they’re not being paid a competitive wage or given adequate benefits.”
According to a 2016 survey by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians (NAVTA), 20% indicated they plan to leave the field or are dissatisfied with their job. The issues that affect job satisfaction include low pay, burnout, and lack of recognition/career enhancement and underutilization of skills. With a current shortage of available credentialed technicians, it’s critical to the profession to attract and retain qualified individuals.
Could unionization be a trend? A San Francisco specialty hospital recently voted to unionize with the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union, and last fall shelter workers voted to unionize at a local humane society. Doctors at Blue Pearl in Seattle are looking at physician unions for themselves, but none have been a good fit. Gill says he’s heard from a lot of hospitals across the country asking how they can form a union. “We have no resources to help them,” he said. “All we can do is consult.”