Healthcare Professionals of Boston VNA Petition CEO as Fight for a Fair First Contract Continues
The healthcare professionals (HCPs) who work for Boston VNA, and who voted to unionize with the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) in late 2019, hand delivered a petition signed by 100% of members to the office of the VNA’s CEO Todd Rose on Tuesday, Dec. 8. The petition stated that they expect the organization to bargain with them in good faith for a first contract that is fair, equitable, and good for patients and members alike:
“This is our community, and we have dutifully served our patients throughout the pandemic because we are committed to their health. We are physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, and speech therapists. We visit our patients in their homes, and we are often their only contact as we help them heal and recover from illness. It has become evident that VNA Care, the owners of the Boston VNA, does not intend to bargain fairly with the caregivers who have devoted so much of their heart to the agency. They have proposed less than our current conditions, conditions which led us to form a union.”
The Boston VNA and its HPCs provide essential in-home care and recovery services to thousands of patients across an enormous area of Massachusetts that includes Boston, Brookline, South Boston, Hyde Park, West Roxbury, Roxbury, Brighton, the North End, Chinatown, Quincy, Everett, Winthrop, Milton, Revere, and more. The medical needs of these patients are varied and complex and may include, among other things, post-surgical conditions such as total hip or total knee replacements; stroke; Parkinson's Disease; Multiple Sclerosis; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); cardiopulmonary conditions; amputations; and post-trauma care (breaks, fractures).
In recent years, many hospital-based services for patients have shifted to in-home services, making VNAs and HCPs an essential and ever-expanding part of the American healthcare system. Hospitals now move patients back home faster than before as doing so reduces costs and opens in-hospital beds. This has led to a dramatic increase in the size of the region’s at-home patient population as well as in the complexity of those patients.
However, the working conditions for the HCPs who care for at-home patients have not kept pace with environmental changes or the market, which is what prompted the Boston VNA’s HCPs to unionize with the Mass. Nurses Association.
During the 13 negotiations for a first contract so far, managers with VNA Care, the Worcester-based parent organization of the Boston VNA, have refused to agree to even the most basic and common components of a contract, including grievance and arbitration language, “just cause” language, bereavement language, and a wage scale. In fact, management has offered the HCPs less in pay increases than it has offered to non-union staff, and those more generous pay increases to non-union staff only came about after the HCPs voted to unionize.
The HCPs’ petition finishes with, “While the agency has been focusing its attention on corporate aﬀairs, mergers and acquisitions the Healthcare Professionals have been the backbone of the agency. We are standing together! WE DEMAND A FAIR CONTRACT NOW!”
For the three co-chairs who lead the HCPs’ MNA bargaining unit, the need for a petition is a distressing and disappointing sign. “When Todd Rose stepped in as interim CEO, he said on numerous occasions that he wanted to improve working conditions for his employees and promised he would be engaged and have an open-door policy,” said Nikki Ducey, a physical therapist, MNA co-chair, and the union member who delivered yesterday’s petition. “That is definitely not what we are seeing at the table.”
Rod Hemingway, also a union co-chair and an occupational therapist, added, “We voted to unionize to have stability and predictability in our work environment. A fair and equitable contract will encourage our colleagues to grow deep roots at Boston VNA, which will pay dividends long into the future for the agency and our beloved patients.”
“We were proud to be able to pass this petition along to CEO Rose,” added Debra Nowak, union co-chair and a physical therapist. “It shows our commitment to the negotiation process, to our union, and to our patients. We stand in solidarity for them and for each other.”
The HCPs return to the bargaining table on Thursday, December 10.