Springfield Hospital Fires Union Activists

A Springfield hospital fired two nurses last month because they supported an effort to form a union at the hospital, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA). The nurses had both worked for Baystate Medical Center for many years. “We have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board,” said MNA spokesman David Schildmeier. If the NLRB rules in favor of the union, the hospital will be required to re-hire the nurses and pay them the wages they would have received if they had not been fired.

Schildmeier said the union may organize a rally and/or a petition demanding that the hospital give the nurses their jobs back. Meanwhile, the union organizing campaign is “on hold,” he said.

The union is accepting donations to support the two nurses while they await the outcome of the NLRB decision. Checks can be sent to:

Baystate Nurses Relief Fund
c/o Massachusetts Nurses Association
241 King Street
Northampton, MA 01060

More information is available at www.MassNurses.org or by contacting Diane Scherrer in the union’s Northampton office at (413) 584-4607 or DScherrer@mnarn.org

Meanwhile, national unions are asking people to contact their members of Congress and ask them to vote for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make stiffer penalties for companies that fire their workers for supporting a union. More information about the Act is at www.AmericanRightsAtWork.org

Union workers in the U.S. make more money than nonunion workers, 30 percent more. That’s about $9,300 a year extra for the average worker who joins a union.

So it’s easy to see why millions of U.S. workers belong to unions, despite employers’ frequent attempts to get them to abandon their unions. Unions aren’t just about money; having a union means companies must have "just cause" for firing a worker. Companies don’t have to give a reason for firing a nonunion worker.

Still, almost 90 percent of workers nationally do not belong to a union, and most companies do their best to keep it that way. While workers are discussing forming a union, a quarter of employers illegally fire union supporters; more than half threaten to shut down and lay off all their workers; and three-quarters hire anti-union law firms to fight their workers. That’s according to research by Cornell University professor Kate Bronfenbrenner.

The labor movement’s critics say many union leaders are corrupt, and their members are selfish and greedy. But so are leaders of companies like Goldman Sachs and AIG; at least union members can vote their leaders out of office. As for being greedy and selfish, unions have spent millions of dollars of their members’ money lobbying for increases in the minimum wage, which helps all workers, union and nonunion alike.

The argument about greed and selfishness cuts two ways. The richest 1 percent of Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 95 percent of us combined. Almost 20 percent of Americans have a net worth of zero or less. (That’s not including mortgages—if you include mortgages, the percentage of Americans in debt is much higher.)

That’s about wealth. Here’s a stat for income. In 1980, more than 20 percent of the private sector workforce in the U.S. belonged to unions. At that time, the ratio of average large-company CEO pay to worker pay was 42 to 1. By 2000, only 8 percent of private sector workers belonged to a union, and the ratio of average large-company CEO pay to worker pay was 525 to 1. In 2005, the average large-company CEO made $12 million. The average worker made $27,460.

In Europe, where a far higher percentage of workers belong to unions, the ratio of CEO pay to worker pay is about 25 to 1.

More information on how to form a union is available from the group Jobs with Justice www.jwj.org which has chapters in Springfield, Mass., and in Vermont. New Hampshire workers can contact the group's national office.


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