Mauro Montanez and his step-daughter Brooklyn at the union celebration Wednesday in the Broadmoor Senior Center parking lot. (Garrison Wells/The Observer)



We’re the ones who work here. We’re the ones who do the day-to-day and it just feels like at this point that we are just numbers — Mauro Montanez, tech at UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center


An effort to unionize health-care workers at UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center became official last week.

On Wednesday, in the parking lot of Broadmoor Senior Center, those employees celebrated with stuffed sopapilla meals from the StuffedLust Sopapilla Food Co. truck.

The move to form the public employee union is a joint effort by the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico and the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers Lodge #794.

Leading the way for the health-care workers is Adrienne Enghouse, a nurse at SRMC.

On May 18, the unions filed to form the United Health Professionals of New Mexico with the New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board.

“We have filed for our recognition,” Enghouse said. “And we are just waiting for them to confirm that we have a majority. At that point, we will sit down and negotiate a contract. Today is about celebrating that landmark event.”

The hospital, however, isn’t going along with the move to unionize.

SRMC, said spokeswoman Alexandria A. Sanchez, in an email, “has and continues to work diligently and collaboratively with staff to create a productive and supportive workplace. We appreciate our SRMC employees and want to thank all of those who put patients first every day by providing exceptional care.”

This isn’t necessarily the only move by the unions in New Mexico, said Whitney Holland, president of AFT New Mexico. Other health-care facilities that are not already unionized are on the radar to make that move.

“That’s our hope,” she said.

UNM, she said, “has not been friendly. They have resisted at every possible twist and turn.”

Emergency room nurse Jennifer Heckwine was among those who attended the celebration.

“I think the union is going to help all of the staff in the hospital,” she said.

It could also help retention.

“I think with the small medical community that we have in this state, there’s a lot of competition, and if we aren’t doing things to support the staff, and retain the staff, then we lose them to the other hospitals and that’s what we’re seeing right now,” she said.

A sign announces the name of the union at the Broadmoor Senior Center parking lot Wednesday. (Garrison Wells/The Observer)

UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center is part of the UNM Health system.

It is in the Rio Rancho City Center near City Hall and UNM Health Sciences Rio Rancho off Paseo del Vulcan.

According to its website, the hospital is a 200,000-square-foot acute-care facility with 72 inpatient beds and two 24-bed medical/surgical units and 12 intensive-care beds.

Mauro Montanez, a tech at SRMC, was among the estimated 100 people who celebrated Wednesday, with his step-daughter Brooklyn.

The union, he said, “would give us more representation.

“We want something that is going to give us a little more voice in our own company,” he said. “We’re the ones who work here. We’re the ones who do the day-to-day, and it just feels like at this point that we are just numbers.”