Nurses are planning a one-day strike for September 27 because Dana-Farber is undermining the stability of its nursing workforce in Merrimack Valley and putting patient care quality at risk by not settling a fair contract
METHUEN, Mass. – The registered nurses of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute – Merrimack Valley, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, issued notice to DFCI on Friday evening that they plan to hold a one-day strike on Wednesday, September 27 unless the institute agrees to a fair contract that provides secured benefits and competitive pay, enabling nurses to provide the high-quality cancer care Merrimack Valley patients deserve.
The nurses are prepared to strike for 24 hours – and picket in front of DFCI – MV during regular clinic hours – after repeatedly trying to get Dana-Farber executives to reach reasonable compromises on key issues, including a competitive wage step scale and a commitment to maintaining benefits throughout the life of their contract. Nurses were required by labor law to give DFCI at least 10 days’ notice before the strike.
Dana-Farber executives have forced DFCI – MV nurses into a position to strike even as Dana-Farber has announced plans to shift its affiliation from Brigham and Women’s Hospital to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and construct a freestanding inpatient cancer hospital. This plan will cost many millions of dollars, while DFCI refuses to make reasonable investments in its existing nurse and nurse practitioner workforce in Merrimack Valley.
DFCI – MV nurses voted 97% to authorize a strike on August 2. Despite multiple negotiation sessions with a federal mediator since the vote, DFCI has refused to agree to meet the needs of nurses and instead wants the right to take away benefits unilaterally and unfairly and refuse to offer daily overtime. There is another negotiation session scheduled for September 19, and it is expected that the federal mediator will call the nurses back for an additional negotiation session or sessions prior to the strike date.
“We are prepared to strike if necessary to protect cancer care quality and access for Merrimack Valley patients,” said Kerrin Albert, Infusion RN at DFCI – MV. “We would prefer that Dana-Farber executives simply meet the needs of our nurses so we can maintain a stable workforce, but instead they have put us in this position to fully exercise our rights as union members.”
“Dana-Farber executives have left us with no other choice but to schedule a one-day strike to ensure nurses are properly valued and patients continue to have excellent cancer care available in Merrimack Valley,” said Kate Mitchell, FNP-BC, AOCNP at DFCI – MV. “Our number one goal is to provide patients with the advanced cancer and blood disorder treatments they need. Dana-Farber has the resources to make sure nurses are empowered to provide that essential care and should settle a fair contract.”
“On September 27, we would prefer to be with our patients, guiding them through treatment and knowing Dana-Farber truly values the care we provide,” said Errin D’Arcangelo, Oncology Nurse Navigator at DFCI – MV. “If Dana-Farber Merrimack Valley nurses are on the strike line September 27, it will be because Dana-Farber executives have refused to commit to competitive pay and secure benefits as part of a fair contract.”
DFCI – MV nurses held an informational picket on June 2 attended by nurses, community members, union supporters, and elected officials. Among those in attendance supporting the nurses were State Senator Pavel Payano, D-Lawrence, and State Representative Ryan Hamilton, D-Methuen.
“As you know, these healthcare professionals are on the front lines of caring for patients and liaising with families,” Rep. Hamilton wrote in an August 2 letter to Dr. Laurie Glimcher, president, and CEO of Dana-Farber. “They play a vital role here in Merrimack Valley by supporting patients through the hardship of a cancer diagnosis and bolstering our fight against this disease. But a lack of basic employment protections, the denial of equal retirement and benefits options, and a substantial gap in pay between nurses based in Boston and nurses based in Merrimack Valley are threatening the good work of these community members.”
DFCI – Merrimack Valley opened in 2020 with 24 exam rooms and 32 infusion bays. The location offers expanded cancer and blood disorder care and outpatient services for adult patients in the region. DFCI – MV nurses voted in June and July 2022 to form a union and join the MNA in an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. The MNA also represents approximately 600 nurses at the DFCI main campus in Boston under a separate contract.
- DFCI – MV nurses are negotiating a first MNA contract with DFCI. A federal mediator joined negotiations this summer.
- DFCI has refused to make a commitment to maintaining benefits through the contract and wants the right to take away benefits unilaterally and unfairly.
- DFCI has refused to offer daily overtime – a typical standard in MNA contracts because of the nature of the scheduling of nurses and healthcare professionals.
- DFCI has refused to agree to competitive wages to help recruit and retain nurses. MV nurses have proposed wages that are less than what DFCI Boston nurses earn, and DFCI has still said no.
- DFCI’s approach in negotiations has been disrespectful to nurses and the community. Merrimack Valley patients deserve to be valued equally to patients in Boston or anywhere else. DFCI must settle a fair contract with MV nurses to demonstrate its commitment to local patients.
Dana-Farber Financial Highlights
- DFCI made $110 million in profits (excess of revenue over expenses) during the fiscal quarter ending March 31, 2023, according to the Center for Health Information and Analysis. It made $87.5 million during the previous quarter.
- DFCI’s total operating revenue for the first six months of fiscal 2023 was approximately $1.5 billion, an increase of $196.9 million, or 15.7 percent, over the same period in 2022.
- Dr. Laurie Glimcher, president and CEO of Dana-Farber, saw a 15.4% increase in pay during the COVID-19 pandemic. The institute’s IRS 990 form shows Glimcher made more than $2 million in total compensation during FY2021.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 25,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.