Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congressman James McGovern, and National Flight Attendants Union Firebrand Sara Nelson will Join Community, Labor, Nursing and Political Activists for a Major Solidarity Rally in Support of the Striking St. Vincent Nurses
When: Saturday, June 12 at 12 noon (speaking program to begin at 12:15)
Where: Outside the St. Vincent Nurses Strike Headquarters at 11 E. Central Street in Worcester, across the street from the hospital
The rally will mark the 97th day of the strike against Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, the longest strike nationally by nurses in over a decade, which is now entering its fourth month over a single issue – the need for safer staffing to ensure safer patient care
WORCESTER, Mass. – On Saturday, June 12, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman James McGovern will join a large crowd of community, labor, nursing, and political activists for a “Solidarity Rally in Support of the St. Vincent Nurses,” who will mark their 97th day on strike against Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, which is now one of the longest nurses strikes nationally in more than a decade.
Also speaking at the rally will be Sara Nelson, head of the 50,000-member Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO and a nationally recognized labor activist who is credited with helping to end the 2018-19 shutdown of the government when she called for a general national strike. She also played a role in advocating for increases in CARES Act funding to support workers impacted by the pandemic; the same funding Tenet Healthcare cynically hoarded to boost its profit margins, while depriving its nurses and the patients they care for with the staffing and resources they needed to be safe during the worst public health crisis in the nation’s history.
“Nurses work hard to take care of us when it matters most and I stand with them in this fight. It is time for Tenet to return to the bargaining table and conclude negotiations so St. Vincent nurses can go back to doing what they do best – caring for our community,” said Senator Warren.
“Tenet already made an unbelievable $97 million in profit this year. They have plenty of money to address the concerns of St. Vincent nurses, but they won’t. It’s just plain wrong,” said Congressman McGovern. “I know firsthand how amazing the nurses at St. Vincent are – they’ve cared for members of my own family with incredible skill, commitment, and love. They deserve to be respected, not replaced. Every day this strike goes on does more and more damage to the St. Vincent brand. If Tenet cares at all about this community, they will come back to the table right now so St. Vincent nurses can go back to taking care of our community.”
The rally follows Tenet’s decision in early May to cease negotiations with the nurses and issue a threat to permanently replace them. The threat to replace the nurses has been met with outrage by the nation’s labor and community groups, as well as by Senators Warren and Markey, Congressman McGovern and 32 federal, state and local public officials who penned a strongly worded letter to Tenet’s Chairman Ron Rittenmyer in Dallas on May 28.
“There should be no discussion whatsoever to replace striking workers, especially after everything these nurses have gone through the last year. These actions are causing great harm to our community and undermine workers’ right to organize,” concludes the lawmakers letter.
The strike began on March 8, after Tenet had refused to negotiate with the nurses over improvements the nurses are seeking to improve unsafe patient care conditions in the hospital. The decision followed earnest and painstaking efforts over the last two years by the nurses to convince Tenet to improve the patient care conditions at the facility, poor conditions that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Tenet’s greed and disdain for nurses and patients was made even more clear in the last year, as back in April of 2020, at the onset of the pandemic, their CEO was quoted in the Dallas morning news touting their plans to use staffing furloughs and funding from the CARES Act stimulus package to “improve their cash position.” And that Tenet did, cutting staff and taking more than $2.8 billion in taxpayer funding to post a profit during the pandemic year of $414 million, with more than $97 million in profits for the first quarter of 2021. Tenet’s stock value also nearly tripled, going from a low of $21.76 per share at the beginning of the pandemic to a high of $64.77 a share as of Friday, May 25.
St. Vincent nurses will continue their efforts to reach an agreement to end a strike that is focused on improving staffing levels and working conditions that have forced more than 700 of them onto the street, conditions that before the strike, drove more than 100 nurses to leave the facility for other hospitals with safer working conditions. The nurses see no likelihood that the hospital can replace them as the strike has been widely lauded throughout the nursing community across the state and the nation, as the nurses have been held up as being heroes for the stand they are making in the wake of the COVID pandemic.
The nurses’ strike has galvanized support from a variety of public officials, labor, faith-based organizations, and community advocates, including the entire Worcester City Council, the Worcester state legislative delegation, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Edward Markey, Congressman Jim McGovern, Congresswoman Lori Trahan, and Attorney General Maura Healey, who have all visited the nurses strike line. Prior to the strike Senators Warren, Markey and Congressman McGovern sent another letter to Tenet’s CEO in Dallas urging Tenet to negotiate with the nurses to address the nurses’ concerns over needed staffing improvements to ensure safe care. On April 28, the Massachusetts Building Trades Council delivered a letter to Tenet CEO Carolyn Jackson announcing that the council will not be sending its 75,000 members to the hospital for care until the strike is resolved.
In the year leading up to the strike, nurses filed more than 600 official “unsafe staffing” reports (including more than 110 such reports filed since January 1, 2021) in which nurses informed management in real time that patient care conditions jeopardized the safety of their patients. The nurses also report their patients in Worcester have experienced an increase in patient falls, an increase in patients suffering from preventable bed sores, potentially dangerous delays in patients receiving needed medications and other treatments – all due to lack of appropriate staffing, excessive patient assignments, and cuts to valuable support staff.
For a more detailed review of the staffing crisis, efforts by nurses to convince Tenet to address the crisis, as well as proposals nurses are seeking to improve patient care, click here to view a previous press release on the matter.
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Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 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.