This afternoon, on the 285th day of their historic strike for safer patient care, the 700 nurses of St. Vincent Hospital have reached a tentative agreement with Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare that guarantees striking nurses the right to return to their original positions, and provides the staffing improvements the nurses need to end the strike and re-enter the hospital to provide care to their community in the face of an emerging new surge of COVID-19 driven by the Omicron variant.
The agreement was reached after two weeks of discussions with federal mediators, and finally settled at an in-person session held today, which was mediated by U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. It comes after two years of negotiations and more than 43 negotiating sessions. It followed what is now the longest nurses strike nationally in over 15 years and the second longest nurses strike in Massachusetts history, with 285 days of picketing, community rallies and marches, tremendous support from federal, state, and municipal public officials who rallied to the nurses’ cause. The strike also garnered the support of faith-based, social justice and labor organizations and their members not only from across the state but from across the world.
“We are so grateful for and humbled by the efforts of Secretary Walsh today, and so pleased to have finally reached an agreement that we believe provides us with what we need to better care for our patients that we will now take to our members for a vote to ratify and thus call an end to our historic strike,” said Marlena Pellegrino, RN, longtime nurses at St. Vincent Hospital and co-chair of the St, Vincent Hospital nurses’ local bargaining unit with the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “This agreement, and the improvements it includes was hard fought, and represents a true victory, not only for the nurses, but more importantly, for our patients and our community, who will have access to better nursing care, which was why our members walked that strike line for the last nine months through four seasons.”
While the nurses admit they did not get everything they sought, they secured important staffing improvements that will enhance their ability to provide the safe, high-quality care all St. Vincent patients deserve. The final component of the agreement reached at today’s session is a “back to work” provision, which guarantees all nurses who went out on strike the right to return to work in the same position, hours, and shift that they worked prior to the strike while providing a process for the parties to follow in recalling the nurses back to work.
“With this agreement, we can go back into that building with great pride not just in what we got in writing in the agreement, but for what we have built together as nurses who know they did everything they could for their patients and their community,” said Dominique Muldoon, RN, a nurse at the hospital and Co-Chair of the bargaining unit. “Once this is ratified by the members, we are now committed to getting back into that building as soon as possible to provide the care our patients deserve.”
Specific details of the pact are being withheld until the tentative agreement can be shared with the rank-and-file members and a ratification vote is held. The nurses hope to hold the vote as soon as possible.
“I have nothing but pride and appreciation for all 700 nurses who literally put everything on the line for their patients and this community. There are so many of our members who won’t be impacted by this agreement who stood out there with us every day for their fellow nurses, but more importantly for our patients and for the city we so proudly serve,” said Marie Ritacco, RN, a member of the nurses negotiating committee and vice president of the MNA. “We have been so moved and uplifted by all the support we received throughout this ordeal, from people honking their horns, or stopping by with food or water, for those who put up signs or walked the line with us, for the dozens of unions, community and faith-based organizations that stood with us and supported us in so many ways, for the efforts of our Congressional leaders, members of our legislative delegation, the City Council and Mayor – they all share in this agreement and we thank them all. Our strike struck a chord, and for that and because of that we will walk into that building with our heads held high.”
For more background on the strike and the issues involved, click here to learn more.