Despite intense opposition, Jane Starr's one-year struggle to organize a union to represent 620 nurses at the Kansas University Medical Center is almost over.
Starr, president of KU Nurses Assn., said nurses at the medical center Thursday voted 247-224 to designate the association as their official bargaining unit.
If no objection is filed with the Kansas Public Employee Relations Board, KUNA will become the second Kansas nursing group to be certified by the state.
Once certified, the KU administration will be required to negotiate with nurses over terms and conditions of their employment, including salary issues.
"IT WAS A real close vote," Starr said today. "In fact, we had some doubts, because of all the time and money the university put into defeating us."
"I'm just thrilled that we got a majority vote. KU tried to make us sound like a Teamsters group that was affiliated with people on the outside, which it isn't."
Richard Mann, KU's director of information services, said today that the vote could have gone either way, but "we'll find a way to work with them constructively."
"The (KU) administration would have preferred that they work directly with the university . . . but they didn't," said Mann, who added that no appeal is planned.
DAVID HAUBER, the attorney representing KUNA, said nurses didn't want to alienate administrators but to "open a channel of communication with them and get their respect."
He charged that KU orchestrated a campaign of misinformation and criticized KU's use of Management Science Associates of Independence, Mo., during the drive.
The AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C., lists the firm on a sheet of alleged union-busting groups. The university paid more than $16,000 to the company, Mann said.
However, he said MSA was hired to assess concerns of nursing employees and advise management about what they could and couldn't say during the union campaign.
"MSA'S assistance to us was in technical expertise," Mann said. "The (KU) administration defined the nature of the campaign and it was done on a professional basis."
Starr said KUNA leaders would begin meeting with the 35 nursing units at the medical center to clarify what issues will take priority during talks with KU officials.
In general the main issues include staffing levels, patient care, wages, parking, child care for employees and expansion of continuing education programs.
The other unionized nurses in Kansas, at Mount Carmel Medical Center in Pittsburg, are part of a painters union, which also represents other hospital workers.