WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Nurses at one of Wichita’s largest hospitals voted to authorize a strike on Wednesday.

“We have petitioned ascension as well as talked with management, and they continue to not meet agreements at the bargaining table, and it’s time that we take a step,” St. Francis RN Shelly Rader said.

The National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) says Ascension Via Christi St. Francis nurses voted 93% yes to authorizing the strike.

The nurses represented by the union say they’ve had enough of the practices of putting profits before patients. They say the top issues for their contract include workplace violence prevention, safe staffing, and nursing staff recruitment and retention.

“We have been asking for patient’s safe staffing, patient care, workplace violence prevention for our patients, our staff, as well as the retention and recruitment of nurses,” Rader said.

Nurses say they will provide notice of a plan to strike at least 10 days in advance. The National Labor Relations Board policy requires people in health care to give a 10-day notice before the strike.

“Hopefully, they will come to the table quicker, and let’s settle this contract. Let’s give our patients, our community, our nurses the best care that we can provide,” Rader said.

Other than the 10-day notice, the timeline for when or if the strike would happen is not clear.

In November 2022, St. Francis became the first private-sector hospital in Wichita to unionize. Nurses at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph voted to unionize in March 2023. The NNOC/NNU says it represents nearly 1,000 nurses between the two hospitals.

KSN News reached out to Ascension Via Christi for its response to the union’s strike vote. A spokesperson sent us this statement:

We continue to bargain in good faith with National Nurses United to come to a mutually beneficial agreement on an initial contract that supports all and will further our combined goal of providing safe, compassionate care to those we serve. We respect our associates’ right to organize themselves through union representation and participate in a strike authorization vote.

“This action is disappointing given that our bargaining team and NNU’s continue to work toward an initial collective bargaining agreement and have multiple sessions scheduled through the end of August.

“We have not received a 10-day strike notice from NNU. Should we receive an official strike notification, we have a comprehensive contingency plan in place to ensure our patients experience no disruption in care or service.”

Ascension Via Christi St. Francis

“Our patients will be continued to be taken care of. There will be nurses that Ascension will have to bring in,” Radar said.