Enough registered nurses at Centerpoint Medical Center have signed a petition asking for an election to decide whether they want to retain or remove a local nurses union that had been negotiating a contract with the hospital.

Enough registered nurses at Centerpoint Medical Center have signed a petition asking for an election to decide whether they want to retain or remove a local nurses union that had been negotiating a contract with the hospital.

At least 30 percent of the 350 full and part time nurses, which is 105 nurses, signed the petition. The document calls for a request at the National Labor Relations Board to conduct a secret ballot election to remove the union. The NLRB rules call for it to hold the election when at least 30 percent of the employees request one.

The vote can happen in as little as 30 days, and no specific date has been set, said Betty Blackmore, spokeswoman for Centerpoint.

In order for the union to be removed, at least 50 percent of nurses, plus one vote, have to approve it.

“The election itself has to be a majority,” Blackmore said.

The Nurses United Local 5126 was voted in by nurses last November. Since then, officials on both sides have met nearly 40 times trying to hash out a contract that sets parameters for nurses at the hospital. The bargaining had stalled, according to a statement by Centerpoint, which made the announcement of the recent petition last week.

The NLRA allows employees to file a petition when at least one year passes and there is no contract between the employer and the union.

Union supporters have said they want better working conditions for nurses who complain about long hours, a high patient-to-nurse ratio, better wages and improvements in recruitment and retention of registered nurses.

Contract negotiations have stalled over the union’s insistance that the hospital fire nurses who choose not to pay union dues or fees, according to the statement.

The hospital opposes forced union dues and supports a contract that allows nurses the right to choose whether they want to pay for dues or fees, according to the statement.

“If nurses feel that this union has failed to serve them well over the past year, then we certainly respect their right to ask for a new vote,” said Carolyn Caldwell, chief executive officer of Centerpoint in the statement. “If nurses conclude that the union put its own agenda ahead of our nurses, then they have every right to tell the union that it is time for them to go.  Either way, we respect their choice.”

Brad Burgess, a union member close to the negotiations, said they wouldn’t fire anyone who doesn’t want to join a union. But he also said it’s not fair for non-paying members to have the same union rights as paying members.

The main sticking point in the negotiations was union security. “They didn’t want us to have a solid union,” Burgess said. “If we don’t have the union security, it will be a weak union without much power.”

He wants to see the union flourish because he wants better working conditions for nurses. Burgess works in the intensive care unit at the hospital and is overloaded with patients.

“We just want it safer for the patients,” Burgess said.

He said the union is confident they’ll have enough votes to retain the union.