"Worcester is in the midst of a public health crisis with a “negative” number of hospital beds throughout the region. It’s irresponsible that St. Vincent’s and Tenet CEO Carolyn Jackson issued a public statement indicating that the service closures at the hospital are being used to justify denying workers involved in a legal strike unemployment benefits.
"The hospital has reduced essential services under the guise of “temporary closures” so that they do not have to face the (required by state law) public accountability hearing. These services have been shut down since August 2nd. This lack of services during the height of resurge of the COVID-19 pandemic has put all of us in the community at risk.
"There are over 700 nurses on the picket line. Bringing them back to their jobs would solve this crisis that our community faces.
"After months of negotiations the nurses of the Massachusetts Nurses Association accepted Tenet’s self-described final offer in August. However, the hospital then added a provision that proclaimed that no returning nurse would be guaranteed the job that they held prior to the strike. This last move by Tenant has nothing to do with or related to staffing ratios, cost effectiveness, availability of jobs, or quality assurance at the hospital. It’s a tactical move out of a union busting playbook, and provisions just like these are on the verge of being outlawed, with the US House passing the PRO-Act. The PRO-Act specifically strengthens the right of workers to organize and prevents employers from permanently replacing striking workers.
"In Ms. Jackson’s statement, she points to the volume of nursing jobs across the Commonwealth. It would be easy for any of the nurses currently on the picket line to seek alternative employment, and many have found jobs outside of Worcester. St. Vincent’s Hospital is a community institution. Many of the employees have worked there for decades providing quality care to our loved ones. We need to have a robust medical ecosystem in the Commonwealth’s second largest city with experienced nursing professionals who know our community well.
"As legislators we are involved in a variety of labor disputes across the Commonwealth. Most of these actions never make headlines because they are often settled behind closed doors. Our roles have often been as mediators, making sure that points from both sides are conveyed to the individuals involved. How is it that most labor disputes can be resolved behind the headlines? There have been dozens of nursing union contacts settled this year across the Commonwealth that have averted strikes. The answer is leadership. Carolyn Jackson has not been a leader during this strike, as evidenced by the statements made this week. For there to be a resolution it is imperative that she be removed from the bargaining.
"On behalf of our families, our constituents, our most vulnerable individuals we cannot remain silent anymore. It’s time for Tenet to do the right thing. It’s time for Carolyn Jackson to step aside so this can be resolved once and for all."