The 200 or so nurses at the Greenfield hospital voted by a 93 percent margin to authorize a strike. This gives their elected union leaders the power to call a strike if current contract negotiations fail. The next bargaining session is set for March 27, Joe Markham told the Valley Post on March 21. He works for the nurses' union, which has a web site at www.MassNurses.org.
The hospital is called Baystate Franklin Medical Center. Donna Stern is a mental health nurse at the hospital and an elected member of the contract negotiating committee. “Nurses voted to authorize their bargaining committee to call a one-day strike because they want to provide the best possible patient care in a safe environment,” she said. “Unfortunately, Baystate is taking a different path. By refusing to negotiate in good faith and refusing to consider nurse proposals to improve patient care and security, Baystate is failing our community. Even on the day of the strike vote, there were only two registered nurses in the emergency room in the morning, when there needed to be four or five. There were only two nurses in the Mental Health Unit (MHU) for 19 patients – so each nurse was responsible for caring for nine or 10 patients at the same instant. Our manager, who also manages the emergency room, left the critical staffing situation there to help take care of the patients on the MHU until another nurse could be found. The nurse who agreed to come in proceeded to work a 13-hour shift. That’s all wildly inappropriate, and yet that was the best Baystate management was willing to do on the day of our strike vote. You can imagine how bad things get on days when we weren’t voting to strike.”
The nurses voted on March 13. They will give the public 10 days' advance notice if and when they go on strike. The strike would last 24 hours.
The workers want fewer patients per nurse, and better wages and benefits.
The below photo was taken during a 2012 strike by the nurses at the Greenfield hospital. To enlarge the photo, click on it, then scroll down and click “see full size image.” photo by MassNurses.org
On average, workers in the USA make 27 percent higher wages when they join a union. That's according to www.bls.gov. Most union contracts say workers can only be fired for "just cause." Non-union workers can be fired at any time for no reason.
Millions of workers in the USA are union members, including all the workers at UPS, UMass Amherst, the Brattleboro Retreat (900 or so workers), and the food co-ops in Northampton, Greenfield, and Brattleboro. The Brattleboro co-op has about 160 employees.
The middle class in the USA is disappearing. There are more rich people and more poor people than there have been since the 1920s. This allows billionaires more influence over politicians. Unions are one way to expand the middle class and increase democracy.
Jillian Sicard is a nurse at the hospital, and an elected member of the bargaining committee. “At this point only Baystate can avoid a strike, by bargaining in good faith to reach a fair agreement which respects all hospital employees and our patients,” she said. “By withholding our labor for one day, nurses will force Baystate to listen to our concerns and treat our community with respect.”
In other news from the Valley, on March 21 about 100 people marched in Brattleboro to protest the arrest by federal agents of three Vermont dairy farm workers. Two of the workers are from Mexico, one is from Peru. All were leaders in a public campaign to win justice for the 1,500 or so undocumented workers on Vermont dairy farms. More information is at: www.MigrantJustice.net.
On March 20, in Springfield, Massachusetts, activists held a rally that increased the chances that a low-income family will be able to stay in their Springfield home. Wells Fargo Bank is trying to evict them. Details are at: www.facebook.com/SpringfieldNOL