Nurses picket two Baystate VNA sites in Springfield
From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
December 2011 Edition
After 12 months of fruitless negotiations, the registered nurses of the Baystate Visiting Nurses Association (BVNA) picketed in late November to inform the community of their employer’s antiunion tactics and its failure to engage in good faith negotiations over key issues, including wages and the nurses’ health insurance benefit.
“As these negotiations have gone on it has become clear to us that Baystate management is attempting to bust our union by taking away our rights to negotiate over our wages and other benefits. Baystate has held fast on its demand that it will unilaterally decide wages. They say RNs will get whatever Baystate determines to give the nonunion employees. This is totally unacceptable and clearly an attempt to bust our union,” said negotiating committee member Greg Pendrick, RN.
The 58 RNs in the Massachusetts Nurses Association bargaining unit have had 18 negotiation sessions since January.
Baystate set the tone for these negotiations by bringing in a national law firm, Jackson-Lewis, known for its strident anti-union representation. Baystate’s Jackson-Lewis attorney has consistently refused to compromise on issues. Last month, the MNA filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board charging Baystate with surface bargaining over Baystate’s refusal to consider MNA proposals regarding the health insurance benefit, while insisting that MNA accept their proposed plan without any change. The MNA also recently filed charges after Baystate management told RNs they couldn’t wear MNA buttons at work. After a hearing, Baystate agreed to post a statement that MNA members were allowed to wear the buttons.
“Our frustration has reached a very high level,” said Pendrick. “We have come forward with a number of packages that would equitably settle the contract only to be told it is not enough. Many of us have been caring for patients in the Springfield area for many years. We deliver the highest quality of care to vulnerable patients in their homes every day. We are not asking for the moon, but we are saying that we will fight to retain our contract and all the rights and benefits that come with it.”
The nurses chose to have picket lines on successive days. On Monday they picketed the offices of Baystate Visiting Nurses Association on Maple Street in downtown Springfield to spread the word that they are outraged about Baystate’s attempt to break their union. On Tuesday, they picketed at the construction site of Baystate’s “Hospital of the Future.” According to Pendrick, “Baystate says it is building ‘a visionary new facility that will meet our community’s needs today’. We are asking Baystate to share a vision of respect and commitment to their caregivers working in the community by working with us to settle an equitable contract.”