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Berkshire visiting nurses take steps to form union

Berkshire Medical Center, part of Berkshire Health Systems, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Adam Frenier
Berkshire Medical Center, part of Berkshire Health Systems, in Pittsfield, Mass.

Employees of the Berkshire Visiting Nurse Association want to form a union. They filed a request Thursday with the National Labor Relations Board asking for an election.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association said the vast majority of the Berkshire VNA's 66 registered nurses and physical, occupational and speech therapists signed union cards. 

Registered nurse Sarah Roberts said, since the pandemic, patients are being discharged from hospitals and nursing homes sooner, and going home sicker. But she said she is required to see a certain number of patients a day, even if they need extra attention.

"More and more we feel that we are not being given time and that our patients are being kind of looked at as a number instead of a whole person," Roberts said.

Berkshire VNA is part of Berkshire Health Systems, which is declining to recognize the union voluntarily.

"Every employee should have a voice in deciding whether an outside third party will represent them," Michael Leary, BHS spokesperson, said. "BHS has not, and will not, recognize any labor union without first giving all of the affected employees the benefit of a free, fair, and confidential election, and an NLRB-supervised election is the best way to do that."

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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