For the first time ever, nurses and other healthcare professionals in the Mehlville School District have unionized, joining the teachers’ bargaining unit and conducting salary negotiations with the district.
The board unanimously approved the first contract between the district and the Mehlville Health Professionals Association, or MHPA, in September and approved the second one last month. The memorandum of understanding lists expectations for nurses and healthcare professionals in the district, and all the things they in turn expect of the district.
There had long been an informal agreement between the nurses and the district, but the nurses felt it would be better to get it in writing last summer, said Executive Director of Human Resources Jennifer Hansen.
“It turned out to be a good thing for both of us, and we expanded on some things this year. …We have a hardworking group of nurses, and their talents were a big reason why we came through the pandemic so unscathed,” added Hansen. “We look forward to continue working with the nurses’ group.”
The negotiation process toward the MOU started in March 2020. The MHPA partnered with the Mehlville National Education Association for bargaining. Typically negotiations are completed in May, but approval of the 2020-2021 MOU was delayed until September because of COVID-19. The nurses had been with a different union in the past, but chose the MNEA this time.
“It’s been a group effort among all of those groups to decide that this was something we wanted to do,” said Hansen. “A union has a right to meet with the district, determine what working conditions are like and so on. It’s collaborative steps taken together to make it a better workplace and make it good for the district.”
The 2021-2022 nurses’ contract was unanimously approved by the board June 10. The second MOU includes minor additions to the first one, outlining how to continue collaborating on employee handbooks, staff evaluations and leave time.
This was also the first year for nurses and healthcare professionals to negotiate salary.
“The union reviewed the information included in the first MOU, how they had been handled in light of COVID and a strained year,” Hansen said. “We’re giving the nurses some opportunities to walk the halls at different schools and observe one another and time to give additional care. … They’re minor additions … but ones that nurses found to be helpful going into next year.”