News & Events

UMass University RNs Vote in Favor of Strike Authorization

The registered nurses of the UMass Medical Center, University Campus (UMMC) voted overwhelmingly tonight to authorize their union leadership to call a strike if necessary in their ongoing negotiations with hospital management. In a unified show of strength, 762 nurses cast ballots, with the nurses voting 716 to 46 In favor of the strike authorization.

"The turnout for this vote was incredible," said Kathie Logan, RN, a nurse at UMMC and chairperson of the bargaining unit. "The results send a powerful message to the hospital that our nurses are firmly committed to their positions in this negotiation and we will not allow management to take away every benefit that makes it worthwhile to work here."

After posting $100 million in profits over the last 18 months, the hospital is demanding a number of significant concessions—concessions the nurses believe compromise their ability to retain and recruit staff needed to deliver quality patient care at the region’s only level one trauma center. Key issues in dispute include management’s demand to delete the nurses’ defined benefit pension plan, dramatically increase health insurance costs, cut nurses’ personal time and reduce family medical leave benefits. The hospital’s concessions would cost most nurses up to $8,000 a year in lost wages and benefits.

The nurses’ pension is a benefit guaranteed to them under the law that allowed the privatization of UMMC in 1997. The proposed change in pension benefits represents a 35 percent cut in retirement savings and a potential loss of as much as $104,000 for many nurses.

According to Logan, "If the hospital has its way, patients will suffer as many of the most qualified and experienced nurses would leave for Boston, where they can be paid as much as $8 per hour more, with better benefits.

The strike authorization vote does not mean the nurses would be calling for a strike immediately. The vote authorizes the negotiating committee too call a strike at such time as they feel it is necessary. Should the committee decide to issue an official notice to strike, the hospital will have 10 days before the nurses walk off the job. The nurses and management will resume negotiations
tomorrow, Sept. 28, with another session scheduled for Oct. 2, 2006.

The 830 nurses of UMMC, University Campus, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, began negotiations last December. More than 20 negotiating sessions have been held to date, with the last several involving a federal mediator.