Saint Vincent CEO asked to step away from bargaining in nurses' strike

Two Massachusetts legislators are calling on Saint Vincent Hospital CEO Carolyn Jackson to step aside from bargaining in a monthslong labor dispute between the Worcester-based hospital and the Massachusetts Nurses Association. 

Massachusetts House members David H.A. LeBoeuf and Mary Keefe, in a statement issued Sept. 28, complained that the strike has resulted in reduced services and the hiring of replacement nurses at the hospital, part of Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare.   

They said decisions under Ms. Jackson's leadership have put the community at risk during the pandemic. The legislators said they want to bring striking nurses back to their jobs and Worcester needs a robust medical ecosystem with experienced nurses who know the city well. 

"As legislators we are involved in a variety of labor disputes across the commonwealth," Mr. LeBoeuf and Ms. Keefe wrote in their statement. "Most of these actions never make headlines because they are often settled behind closed doors. Our roles have often been as mediators, making sure that points from both sides are conveyed to the individuals involved. How is it that most labor disputes can be resolved behind the headlines? There have been dozens of nursing union contacts settled this year across the commonwealth that have averted strikes. The answer is leadership. Carolyn Jackson has not been a leader during this strike. … For there to be a resolution it is imperative that she be removed from the bargaining."

The comments from legislators come after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker urged the Massachusetts Nurses Association and hospital management to return to the bargaining table. Physicians who care for patients at Saint Vincent Hospital have also asked their nurse colleagues participating in the strike to end the walkout.

The strike began March 8. The primary remaining issue is the nurses' demand that they return to work in their previous roles.

Saint Vincent, in a statement issued Sept. 28, said it is unclear what legislators want Ms. Jackson to step away from. 

"While Carolyn is involved in all aspects of operations during the strike, chief executive officers are not typically members of hospital bargaining committees and therefore do not participate in direct, day-to-day negotiations," the hospital said. 

Saint Vincent also noted that the legislators referred to several other contracts settled in Massachusetts this year. 

"It is important to note that two of those contracts were settled harmoniously as a direct result of Carolyn Jackson's leadership," said Saint Vincent. "One was the UFCW [United Food and Commercial Workers] contract at Saint Vincent Hospital, and the other was the SEIU [Service Employees International Union] contract at MetroWest Medical Center, which reports up to Carolyn in her role as CEO of Tenet's Massachusetts market."

Saint Vincent said it agrees the strike needs to end and that the 205 permanent replacement nurses provide the robust medical ecosystem that legislators reference. 

Read more about the strike here

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