2008 News

Bargaining Unit Updates


From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
July/August 2008 Edition

Caritas Photo
Cooley Dickinson VNA & Hospice: MNA members at Cooley Dickinson VNA & Hospice during a June 19 informational picket.

Mercy Hospital
After six months of negotiations, many with the assistance of the federal mediator, the RNs at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield recently reached a tentative agreement with management on a two-year contract. The agreement was the culmination of a concerted effort by the members to inform the public about their situation. In April, the nurses held a successful informational picket at the hospital attended by a large number of members and community and labor supporters. The campaign also included newspaper advertisements and yard signs. Following the picket line, management seemed to become much more serious about finding a solution. The unit obtained extremely important supervisory language, and achieved positive language on floating and advances regarding charge nurse pay, tuition and certification. In addition, increases in the wage scale and a very positive increase in the weekend differential have been agreed upon.

Burbank Hospital
The Burbank Hospital bargaining unit has ratified a three-year contract with the hospital. The committee was able to make gains in some very important areas: supervisory language; health and safety that included language on workplace violence; significant improvements in HIV insurance; tighter language for the use of per diems; and buyback and payout for vacation time and sick time. Increases in wages, shifts and weekend differentials, tuition reimbursement, travel reimbursement, charge pay and the addition of two new steps at the top of scale were also achieved.

Cooley Dickinson VNA & Hospice
Following 11 months of negotiations, the 28 RNs of the Cooley Dickinson VNA & Hospice recently reached a settlement. During this long process numerous meetings have been held, members have attended negotiations on a regular basis, and the nurses developed an impressive Power Point presentation about the work and value of visiting and hospice nurses. They also appeared on local cable TV. After many months of frustration over management’s lack of movement the unit held an informational picket in front of the agency. There was great support from community organizations affiliated with both Jobs with Justice and the Hampshire/Franklin Central Labor Council AFL/CIO. The day following the informational picket, a great article appeared in the Hampshire Gazette, radio news interviews were conducted and a few days later full page ads in two Pioneer Valley papers were taken to further draw attention to the issues facing the nurses. In the agreement, nurses gained advancements in wages, steps, scheduling and on-call, vacation days, union representation, and health insurance. The nurses feel this was a strong victory but just the first step in gaining equity with hospital based RNs.

Cooley Dickinson Hospital
Cooley Dickenson Hospital is presently in negotiations. Among the issues on the table are union security language and taking away Veteran’s Day, making it a floating holiday. The committee presented language from other recent MNA contracts that mitigate the problems raised by the Kentucky River decision. Management claimed no plans to remove the Charge Nurses from the union but was adamant against accepting our language. We pointed out that language is needed in the contract to protect our union, and our members from the attacks by the NLRB rulings. On the economic front the hospital has put forward a very small offer – considering they have realized a profit of more than $10 million over the past 15 months.

Baystate VNA & Hospice
The nurses of the Baystate VNA and Hospice are holding firm in their efforts to gain an equitable contract. Baystate brought in the national anti-union law firm of Jackson Lewis and negotiations, which started in January, have not been easy. A federal mediator was called in to facilitate the process. One key issue left to resolve is flexibility in nurse’s schedules. The negotiating committee has forged ahead and feels it is now close to a settlement.

Franklin Medical Center
Franklin Medical Center has been owned by Baystate for the past decade but for the first time Baystate has taken control of negotiations. The facility replaced its long-time attorney with a Jackson Lewis lawyer and has taken every opportunity to control and/or block the process of give-and-take at the table. The nurses have answered by working hard to stay united. They have put up yard signs and billboards around the community, signed a petition which was handed to the new hospital COO and will soon launch a newspaper and radio advertising campaign. One of the members of the committee recorded a radio ad that points out the important issues still at odds. Management continues to demand the right to cancel or send a nurse home whenever they choose. Moreover, Baystate wants to create a situation where a nurse could have to decide between going to work sick or being disciplined.

Whidden Hospital
Whidden Hospital is one of the three Cambridge Health Alliance hospitals. Shortly after beginning negotiations this year management claimed that because of health care reform the facility would lose $35 million this year and therefore would not be able to offer any wage increase. We pointed out that this is very unusual because seldom is there a case where management claims severe economic problems but also puts numerous concessions on the table that would take money out of members pockets. A rational person would think that if management has money problems they would come to the table and offer some language advancements in place of money – but not here at Whidden. In order to better understand, and possibly validate the “drastic economic situation” claimed by management, the three CHA MNA bargaining units (Whidden, Somerville and Cambridge) hired a financial expert to analyze the situation and requested a large amount of fiscal information. Management has refused to provide the information saying we had no right to make the request. We’ll continue to press for the information through the NLRB or the courts.