Westfield Nurses Vote to Authorize a Strike

About 130 nurses at a hospital in Westfield, Massachusetts have voted to authorize a strike. This does not necessarily mean they will go on strike; it means their elected union leaders have the power to call a strike. Westfield borders Holyoke. The nurses work at Noble hospital. They voted earlier this month.

On August 27, Donna Stern told the Valley Post that elected union leaders for the 200 or so nurses at the Greenfield hospital will meet with management on September 6 to negotiate a new union contract. Stern is a nurse at the Greenfield hospital. Earlier this year she said, “Nurses are being pushed beyond our ability to safely care for our patients. If we have too many patients at one time, how can we provide high-quality care? If we work 12 hours without a break or are forced into illegal, mandatory overtime, how can we be sure our patients are getting the best possible care?”

Jillian Sicard is also a nurse at the Greenfield hospital. “The hospital is failing to provide core nurse staffing from the very start when it issues schedules,” she said. “The hospital is scrambling to try and fill many open shifts, or is leaving them unfilled, to the detriment of patient care. Baystate forces unsafe patient assignments and unsafe working conditions on nurses. We cannot provide the high quality care our patients deserve when we have too many patients at one time, are fatigued and undernourished because we must work through our breaks, and are required to stay beyond our scheduled shifts in violation of state law.”

The Westfield and Greenfield nurses have a union, which has a web site at www.MassNurses.org. The workers want fewer patients per nurse, and better wages and benefits.

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.

This photo was taken on June 26 outside the Greenfield hospital when the nurses there were on strike. In the photo, people are listening to a nurse speaking. One of the signs in the photo reads, "Stop corporate greed." To enlarge the photo, click on it, then scroll down and click "see full size image." photo by Eesha Williams


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