News & Events

Unity leads to victory at Providence Hospital in Holyoke

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
March 2010 Edition

The two temporarily terminated nurses, (from left) Jean Travis and Cindy Pleau, celebrated with Providence committee members Jeannette Bilodeau, Danny DiRocco, Cindy Chaplin, Diane Michael, Marilyn Hernandez, Etienne Debaudringhien and Diane Sampson. Not pictured is Denny Glidden, bargaining unit co-chair.

On Dec. 23, 2009, shock waves ran through the tight knit group of staff working at Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke, as hospital management unexpectedly fired two well-respected nurses from the 61-bed psychiatric hospital. Described as the “glue that holds the unit together,” the sudden terminations of these nurses had a devastating effect on the unit and the hospital as a whole. Jean Travis, one of the fired RNs, said the terminations came out of nowhere. “I have been an RN for 36 years and 15 of those years have been spent caring for patients at Providence,” said Travis. “Then, after all this time of stellar evaluations and a great record, I am fired out of the blue just days before Christmas. It was unbelievable.”

Two days before Christmas and in response to the unjust terminations, the MNA filed grievances, submitted information requests and held meetings with hospital staff. During this process the nurses and the mental health workers at the facility, who are represented by the UAW, wore red and black pins that read “Rehire the Fired Nurses” as a way of showing support for their beleaguered colleagues.

“Seeing all the MNA members and other hospital workers standing behind us we were confident we would get our jobs back,” said Cindy Pleau, RN and the other nurse who was fired.

Thanks to the unity of their colleagues and the hard work of the MNA staff and the MNA committee at Providence, both Travis and Pleau returned to their positions less than one month after their unjust termination. “It was a unique set of circumstances and bringing them back was the right thing for the hospital to do,” said Andrea Fox, RN the MNA associate director who represents Providence Hospital.

On Jan. 29 Travis and Pleau attended a “welcome back” party—an occasion that was originally meant to be an “in support of the nurses” party. The bargaining unit purposely scheduled the nurses’ celebration for the same night as the hospital’s “official” holiday gathering, and the unit was honored when the majority of floor staff chose to join in the nurses’ festivities rather than management’s.

Three months post, unit co-chair Diane Michael is looking for the lesson learned. “Hopefully hospital administration will use due diligence before they decide to fire nurses in the future,” she said.