Nurses decide up St. Vincent and Worcester Medical Heart

Substitute nurses referred to as acceptable workers

By Jim Bodor, Telegram & Gazette Employees
| Telegram and Gazette

FROM OUR ARCHIVES: This story was initially revealed on April 1, 2000

WORCESTER – Carrying megaphones and indicators studying ‘Sufferers, Not Income’, almost 500 nurses at St. Vincent Hospital went on strike yesterday morning in the course of the first nurses’ strike in Massachusetts in 14 years outdated.

The strike started, as deliberate, at 6 a.m., with round 200 nurses picketing exterior Vernon Hill Hospital. Inside minutes, they have been joined by teams of nurses leaving the hospital after the top of their evening shift.

As every group made the lengthy stroll throughout the hospital garden to the picket line, these already on the picket line cheered, chanted and waved. Passing automobile and truck drivers honked their horns in help. A loudspeaker rang Aretha Franklin’s “ Respect ” because the nurses danced. Members of different unions, together with Teamsters and nurses from different Massachusetts hospitals, added to the road.

Over the course of the day, the variety of strikers remained secure between 200 and 300, lowering as some left for a chew to eat or to relaxation with drained toes. Within the night, the variety of pickets declined as nurses ready for the evening picket. A few of those that stayed walked with their kids or their pet canines.

“ We’re very excited in regards to the turnout, ” mentioned Sandy A. Ellis, member of the Nurses Bargaining Group. “ It is extremely heartwarming to see our picket strains bolstered by unions and nurses from so many various locations. ”

Substitute nurses started arriving on the hospital as early as 4:30 a.m. in vans with tinted home windows. Different replacements later arrived in the identical vans, passing via indignant pickets close to the hospital emergency room, which was open in the course of the strike.

Picket nurses shouted at substitutes as they handed, saying ‘You ought to be ashamed of your self’ and calling them ‘scabs’.

Union members famous the names of nurses who didn’t be part of the strike. About 64 full-time nurses refused the strike and confirmed up for work as typical, hospital officers mentioned.

“ If we see folks crossing the road, we’ll name them scabs, and we’ll attempt to persuade them to not cross the road, ” mentioned David J. Schildmeier, spokesperson for the Massachusetts Nurses Affiliation. , which represents the nurses on strike.

A smaller variety of nurses have spent the day picketing exterior the brand new Worcester Medical Heart, the downtown medical campus to which St. Vincent Hospital is because of transfer right this moment. Nurses from UMass Memorial Well being Care and different hospitals joined nurses in St. Vincent, carrying indicators and shouting on the hospital vans that generally crossed the strains.

Hanging nurse Laura W. Delahanty stood exterior the brand new constructing as nightfall fell.

“ It is a ravishing hospital, and I might like to work there, however we have now to kind this out, ” she mentioned.

Yesterday, inside Saint Vincent Hospital, the temper was upbeat and resilient, in keeping with CEO Robert E. Maher Jr. About 125 nurses have been obtainable to work, with 175 sufferers within the hospital, a- he declared.

Of these nurses, about 30 have been nurse managers who usually are not a part of the union, in keeping with hospital spokeswoman Paula L. Inexperienced. The remaining have been nurses who didn’t take part within the strike and substitute nurses who have been licensed by the Nationwide Nursing Registration Board, she mentioned.

Mr. Maher spent the evening earlier than the strike sleeping on a cot in his workplace. Different key administrative workers additionally slept within the hospital. They did the identical final evening in preparation for right this moment when ambulances are scheduled to maneuver sufferers to the brand new medical heart. The switch may take eight to 10 hours.

At 4:45 a.m. yesterday, Mr Maher greeted those that have been planning to work in the course of the strike at a gathering within the hospital amphitheater, he mentioned.

“ Out right here, ” Mr Maher mentioned later within the morning, gesturing to the picket nurses exterior the hospital, “ you see folks gathering. Individuals inside additionally collect. ”

Full-time nurses who attended the morning assembly within the amphitheater have been greeted with standing ovations, Maher mentioned. Between 5 and 6 a.m., workers and new nurses mentioned sufferers who wanted care. Later that morning, the hospital emergency room was quieter than typical, however functioning.

The State Division of Public Well being positioned two screens contained in the hospital to evaluate the impact of the strike and to supervise right this moment’s motion, which was scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. despatched hourly experiences to well being officers in Boston, and located no points with the way in which the hospital was run, division spokeswoman Roseanne M. Pawelec mentioned.

“ The staffing ranges have been satisfactory, ” she mentioned.


There was an arrest associated to yesterday’s picketing. Hospital upkeep workers member David Bratko, 42, of seven Dupont St., Worcester, was arrested after yelling obscenities and threateningly approaching a picket nurse, in keeping with Sgt. Donald E. Cummings.

Mr. Bratko went to the hospital at 9:30 a.m. to gather his paycheck. On his solution to the hospital, he yelled and cursed a few of the strikers, Sgt. Cummings mentioned. He was warned by the police to chorus. When he was launched from the hospital, he swore once more and yelled on the strikers. Then he stopped his automobile, bought out and walked angrily in direction of an attacker. It was then that officers intervened and arrested the person, Sgt. Cummings mentioned. Mr. Bratko was charged with disturbing the peace and being a disorderly particular person.

Ms Inexperienced mentioned she heard that pickets rocked a van exterior the hospital as properly, however Ms Ellis denied the pickets acted inappropriately. Police mentioned that they had no experiences of issues with the picket strains.

The picketing downtown had no impact on the last-minute work underway at Worcester Medical Heart, a venture constructed totally with unions, in keeping with Ms Inexperienced. Some nurses recommended unionized development employees would refuse to cross nurses’ picket strains, however Ms Ellis mentioned nurses by no means meant to cease engaged on the brand new complicated.

Nurses negotiate first contract with Tenet Healthcare Corp. from Santa Barbara, Calif., for 2 years. Tenet owns the hospital and the brand new medical heart.


Three buying and selling periods up to now two weeks have ended and not using a settlement, though greater than 40 particular person points have been resolved, together with a monetary bundle.

The 2 events stay divided on obligatory time beyond regulation. The hospital needs the precise to require nurses to work time beyond regulation at their discretion, particularly when the variety of sufferers is excessive.

‘This provision is in nearly each different state MNA contract as a result of different hospitals perceive that we’re working 24/7, and we want to have the ability to workers the ability.’ ‘mentioned Mr Maher. .

Nurses oppose obligatory time beyond regulation, saying the hospital needs to impose time beyond regulation somewhat than hiring sufficient workers.

Different hospitals, union officers level out, have caps on the quantity of time beyond regulation a nurse can work. Boston Medical Heart nurses, for instance, by contract, can not work greater than 4 hours of time beyond regulation per day. Related ceilings exist at Cambridge Hospital and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Boston.

Nurses at UMass Memorial are paid twice as a lot time beyond regulation and hope to barter a cap on time beyond regulation when their contracts expire later this yr, Schildmeier mentioned.

“ They are saying each contract has obligatory time beyond regulation, ” he mentioned. “ This isn’t the case, whenever you have a look at the contracts intently. ”


It was not anticipated yesterday that the 2 events will return to the negotiating desk. A federal mediator has been concerned within the negotiations and will try to rearrange a gathering for subsequent week, nurses and the hospital mentioned.

“ Since March 17, we have now had three periods and a complete of 30 to 35 hours on the desk, ” mentioned Maher. “ We couldn’t agree on the difficulty of obligatory time beyond regulation. Possibly a number of days of one another will assist us settle down. ”

Either side are getting ready for a protracted strike. The nurses arrange a strike fund to just accept donations. The union can be compiling an inventory of non permanent positions obtainable for nurses on strike at different hospitals. And the MNA has pledged $ 500,000 in help.

The hospital employed US Nursing Corp. to offer replacements and pays three groups of police – or 20 officers a day – to maintain the peace in the course of the strike.

The final Massachusetts nurses strike was in 1986 at Carney Hospital in Dorchester. About 400 nurses went on strike for 5 weeks after contract negotiations stalled for greater than a yr. The strike was settled when the 2 sides agreed on the problems of defining nurses’ work.

Lisa Eckelbecker of Telegram & Gazette workers contributed to this report.

FROM OUR ARCHIVES: This story was initially revealed on April 1, 2000

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