VNA (copy)

Employees of the Berkshire Visiting Nurse Association, which is owned by Berkshire Health Systems, hope to unionize their staff. Organizers say they need a union, in part, because management will not listen to their concerns.

Nurses and other health care workers with the Berkshire Visiting Nurse Association have taken the first step toward a formal vote to unionize. Organizers on Wednesday asked Berkshire Health Systems, which owns the VNA, to voluntarily recognize their union, but the hospital system declined to do so.

On Thursday, VNA union organizers filed notice with the National Labor Relations Board, seeking an election to join the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

“Every employee should have a voice in deciding whether an outside third party will represent them,” Michael Leary, BHS spokesperson, said in a statement to The Eagle. “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.”

Nurses involved in organizing told The Eagle they want a voice in how the VNA runs and feel ignored by their management.

They say that they perform uncompensated work and do not always have the necessary resources to care for patients, who are located across Berkshire County.

“We want clear, explicit standards that we’re following,” Emma Mattison, a registered nurse and member of the organizing committee, said Wednesday. “And we need more recognition of the effort and time that the staff, nurses, physical therapists and everybody doesn’t always clock in for.”

If the vote succeeds, about 66 nurses, physical therapists and other health workers would join the Massachusetts Nurses Association. The process could take several months.

Francesca Paris can be reached at fparis@berkshireeagle.com and 413-447-7311, ext. 239.