Wednesday's State House rally by state-employed RNs and health professionals was a rousing success
Wednesday's State House rally by state-employed RNs and health professionals was a rousing success, with hundreds in attendance, making a strong showing in support of a fair contract to improve the recruitment and retention of the professional staff needed to properly care for the state’s most vulnerable residents.
A photo of the event appeared in the Boston Globe, with the State House News Service providing an audiotape of most of the proceedings, including the comments from Senators Marc Pacheco and Ed Augustus and Rep. Peter Koutoujian, as well as the comments of MNA Unit 7 Bill Fyfe. Click here to listen.
Stories also appeared in the Eagle Tribune and the Lowell Sun. After demonstrating outside the state house, the crowd marched to the Governor's office to see if he would meet with them to discuss this situation. He refused, as the crowd filled the building with the chant: “Be Fair to Those Who Care,” and “Shame on You.” As the stalled talks now enter the 850th day, the MNA is committed to stepping up efforts to pressure the Romney administration to do the right thing and negotiate a fair contract.
Chanting "Hey, ho, Romney's got to go!" hundreds of nurses and advocates marched in front of the State House Wednesday marking 849 days without a new contract. Sens. Marc Pacheco and Edward Augustus and Rep. Peter Koutoujian spoke at the rally.
State hospital nurses rally to end 2-year contract stalemate
By ANNIE SHERMAN, Sun Statehouse Bureau
BOSTON — More than 150 chronic care nurses and their supporters, including some from the Lowell area, rallied at the Statehouse yesterday, hoping Gov. Mitt Romney would hear their demands to end a more than two-year wait for a new contract.
The nurses have worked 850 days without a contract, receiving salaries and benefits approved in the contract signed more than four years ago.
Marty Miraglia, a Dracut nurse who has worked at Tewksbury State Hospital for 13 years, said she and her fellow nurses care for patients with chronic diseases, mental illnesses, violent disorders and handicaps -- some of the most demanding patients to treat.
Yet, she said, she and her coworkers are paid 30 percent less than their colleagues at private hospitals. She said that makes it difficult to recruit and retain nurses who want to stay at the state hospitals, but struggle to pay their own bills because of the low pay.
Salaries for nurses at state hospitals range from $39,436 to $64,188, while salaries for nurses at private hospitals are much more, said David Schildmeier, spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents 1,800 health-care professionals statewide that work for state-run facilities.
At Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill, nurses earn $51,604 to start and can earn a top scale of $83,033. Nurses at Lawrence General Hospital earn as much as $82,888 in the top of their profession.
Mary-Ellen Cooper, a 17-year veteran of Tewksbury State Hospital where she is a nurse-manager, said many nurses simply quit because of the low pay.
“The more money we have, the more nurses will stay and the better patient care we can provide. It's a no-brainer,” she said.
Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom approached the crowd that assembled outside the governor's office.
“The job of the union is to fight for its members, and the governor's job is to stand up for the interest of the taxpayers. So everyone is doing their job,” he said. “I expect that by the end of the day, we will reach an agreement that is fair to both the union and the Commonwealth.”
Miraglia, who is on the executive board for negotiating the contract with the state, said Tewksbury hospital is understaffed and the nurses are overworked and underpaid.
“To keep it safe, we're running an overtime budget in the millions,” she said. “If we were a private company, we'd be bankrupt by now.”
Cooper said she works two eight-hour overtime shifts per week just to pay her bills. Colleague Donna McMahon, a Lowell nurse at Tewksbury State Hospital for 25 years, said she is headed in that same direction.
“We love our patients, we love our jobs, but how many years will go by before we have a contract?” she said. “This is a safety issue, and the fact is that we want to be treated fairly.”