The MNA: pushing back and moving forward
From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
June 2010 Edition
By Donna Kelly-Williams
These are truly tumultuous times for the health care sector and for the nursing profession in particular. Across the state and nation, the health care industry—one of the largest, most profitable and powerful industries in America—is engaged in a wholesale effort to maintain its position and power in the face of two uncertainties: a sluggish economy and the coming changes in reimbursement vehicles caused by the new health reform law.
None of this bodes well for nurses, and we have already started to see our employers engage in a number of practices at the negotiating table and in the workplace that compromise our ability to practice and to secure our economic security.
At Quincy Medical Center, yet another management team has been brought in to try to help that struggling hospital. In so doing, management has attempted to cut the nurses’ salaries and benefits illegally, and they are now proposing layoffs and to cross-train nurses in order for them to work in multiple locations. At North Adams Regional Hospital, management is proposing wholesale changes to the nurses’ contract — to change nurses’ schedules at will, to cut their pension benefits and to gut longstanding patient-safety provisions. At all of the Caritas facilities, Cerberus Capital Management, a multi-billion dollar private equity firm, is purchasing the hospital network. Our nurses at these facilities are working to ensure they 1) maintain the mission of these hospitals and 2) protect their union rights while working to establish a multi-employer pension plan.
At Cooley Dickenson Hospital, another round of layoffs is underway. At Merrimack Valley Hospital and at other hospitals rep-resented by MNA, management has brought in the Studer Group, a consulting firm that attempts to train nurses to speak according to a script and to follow customer service procedures in an attempt to boost patient satis
faction scores. At UMass Memorial, where the employer made a profit of more than $90 million last year, the nurses are facing proposals to limit salary increases and to cut their benefits.
This is happening as year-end financials for the hospital industry show that more employers are making money than in years previous. In fact, these financial reports show that the industry is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars in reserves.
When it comes to addressing these types of issues, the MNA’s Board of Directors is active, engaged and involved. We have been working with MNA staff and we are using all of our resources in order to wage campaigns at the bargaining unit level, the state level and the local level. Through our affiliation with National Nurses United, our fight to protect and improve your rights, benefits and practice will be happening at the national level as well.
The good news is that nurses throughout the state are mobilizing. They are meeting with their legislators and city councilors as part of the fight to save their local hospitals. Bargaining unit leaders and MNA Board members are testifying at hearings before the attorney general and department of public health to push for proper regulation of Cerberus’ purchase of Caritas. In addition, the MNA is making sure all of these efforts are shared with the public. We have placed numerous advertisements in area papers in opposition to the layoffs at Cooley Dickenson. We are also running a strong public awareness campaign in North Adams.
These times are challenging for us, but we are strong. Your Board of Directors, nearly every one of us a bargaining-unit leader, is engaged in these fights. We know what you are facing because we are you. We are making an effort to get out to as many bargaining unit meetings as possible, as well as to Regional events and programs. We want to hear your concerns, we want to give you the resources you need and we want to help you develop a strategic plan that will ensure your success.
We want to hear your thoughts and concerns. Visit the MNA’s Web site (massnurses.org) for a list of Board members’ e-mail addresses. Contact us and let us know what you need.
Through all of this it is imperative for nurses to support each other, whether it is within your own facility, among different MNA bargaining units, or nationally. Wherever an employer attempts to degrade your nursing practice, it is a problem for all of us. An injury to one nurse is an injury to all nurses. An attack on one MNA bargaining unit is an attack on all MNA bargaining units.
We can no longer work and think in silos. We must think and act collectively for the good of our patients and for the future of our profession. Together, we will not only survive, we will thrive in these times of great change.