The Longmont United nurses won their union election. Now they look ahead to bargaining

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Longmont United Hospital nurse Brooke Schroeder holds a sign supporting other nurses and backers December 2, 2021, outside the hospital. They say the hospital is severely understaffed, their workload is unsustainable, and the hospital is trying to block them from forming a union.

A group of Colorado nurses got the green light to begin bargaining with their employer, Longmont United Hospital. The National Labor Relations Board certified the group's union election results on Monday.

The National Labor Relations Board did its initial count of the 187 ballots March 25. By a one-vote margin, the group voted 94-93 to unionize. The tally and certification of the results makes the Longmont union the first private-sector hospital in the United States affiliated with the National Nurses United Union, which represents roughly 175,000 registered nurses.

Nurses began organizing during the pandemic in protest of what they called unsafe working conditions and high turnover. In their first contract, nurses are focused on “strengthening patient safety standards, improving infectious disease protocols and growing recruitment and retention efforts at the hospital,” said Kris Kloster, a registered nurse, in a statement. 

“We’re ready to get to work,” Kloster said. 

At a rally held in November, critical care nurse Stephanie Chrisley told a crowd that normally a registered nurse would care for two ventilated, sedated, critical care patients. 

“And the last few weeks we have regularly had RNs taking three, and sometimes four patients, at a time,” she said.

Nearly a third of the hospital's registered nurse staff has left since July 2021 and many have not been replaced, Kloster said. 

“This kind of staffing, this kind of stress is not sustainable,” Kloster said. “And something has to change.”

Their election victory comes on the heels of increased union activity among health care workers in the state. In December, Kaiser Permanente nurses finalized a new contract with the nonprofit health care system after threatening to strike over pandemic working conditions.

Lindsay Radford of Centura Health, which owns Longmont United, released a statement acknowledging the certification.

"The National Labor Relations Board certified the Union’s one-vote margin in the secret ballot election. Longmont United Hospital is weighing its legal options in response to this certification," Radford said in the statement.

Registered nurses in Longmont will next elect a team of representatives to help lead the bargaining process with Centura representatives. 

CPR’s John Daley contributed reporting.