Brainerd Medical Center employees rejected a vote to form a union by a more than 3-1 margin Wednesday.
Employees voted 127 against and 37 in favor of organizing a union. A number of contested votes were not counted because the margin was so great. Both sides of the debate -- union and management -- expressed surprise at the vote margin. It was the first time employees organized a union vote at BMC.
"We obviously feel relieved and are glad this process is over with and that the vote was in favor of the clinic as it was," Curtis Nielsen, BMC administrator, said today. "... We were pleasantly surprised with the margin. We did not expect the margin to be that great."
Today Curtis Reed, United Steelworkers of America union organizer in Brainerd, said some workers who were in favor of forming a union changed their minds during the previous weekend. Reed said the change came after employees heard from physicians who said they were unaware of employee concerns.
"Evidently a majority of employees wanted to give management another chance," Reed said.
Reed said he believes the attempt to organize a union opened management's ears to employees. A year must pass before another union vote may be attempted.
"I think the whole process made us realize there are some things we need to improve on as an organization and how we interact with our employees and it's not just wages and benefits related," Nielsen said, noting communication as one area for improvement.
Nielsen said he did not think the request for the vote came from one specific thing and now the job is to mend relationships. Nielsen said he thinks rebuilding relationships with employees will be less of an obstacle than he guessed six to eight weeks ago. Nielsen commended employees on both sides of the issue for keeping the discussion and debate professional.
"I did expect the tensions to be much greater than they were," Nielsen said. "I do not believe this whole process deterred what everybody is here for -- to provide good patient care."
Nielsen said while management was optimistic about the vote outcome, it does not change the message that BMC heard from workers.
"We need to work on employee relations harder than we may have in the past," he said.
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