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Nurses At Duke University Medical Center Want To Form Union

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DURHAM — Nurses atDuke University Medical Centerdo not feel like they are being taken care of, and they want to form a union.

Pro-union chants echoed throughout Duke University's campus on Thursday. Students and faculty showed their support for nurses who say they are overworked and underpaid.

"I'm out here to show that the Duke students are in solidarity with the nurses and their struggle," says Duke student Michael Silverstein.

The movement to form a union has slowly been gathering steam. Laura Stephenson, an 11-year employee at Duke University Medical Center, says low staff levels, loss of benefits and mandatory overtime are compromising patient care.

"Over the past couple of years, it has gotten progressively worse in terms of the staff here," Stephenson says. "We're concerned that we are not able to provide the quality of care that our patients deserve."

Mike Israel, CEO of Duke Hospitals, says budget cuts and more emphasis on managed care have contributed to industry-wide problems. But, he says, collective bargaining and third-party representation are not the answer.

"These are issues that are going to be resolved by nurses, by every other employee at this institution, by our faculty and management sitting down and figuring how to do the best that we can for our patients, which in the end, is what everybody wants," Israel says.

A hearing is scheduled next week in Hillsborough to discuss the issue. A vote on whether to form an union could take place as early as June.