Bucks stop here: Vermont nurses divest in protest

Kelly Gooch - Print  | 

AFT Vermont, the parent of the union representing 1,800 nurses at University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, is divesting its funds from New England Federal Credit Union to put pressure on the hospital's board, which includes two bank board members.

Union officials said the move, announced Aug. 9, is "to lean on the hospital to negotiate a fair contract with hospital nurses that will improve patient safety."

The Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals Local 5221, part of AFT Vermont, has been negotiating with the hospital since before the workers' contract expired July 9.

Union officials are trying to pressure John Dwyer Jr., New England Federal Credit Union's CEO and a member of the UVM Medical Center board of trustees, and Kathleen Emery-Ginn, who is also on the bank and hospital boards.

"UVMMC board members have a unique influence on the hospital's direction, including contract negotiations with its employees. It's time for hospital board members to get involved, stand up for what’s right and encourage the hospital to take their nurses seriously," Deb Snell, president of AFT Vermont and executive vice president of the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, said in a prepared statement.

According to union officials, UVM Medical Center board members previously declined a meeting requested by Ms. Snell to discuss patient safety issues.

In response to the union's Aug. 9 announcement, the hospital told Becker's Hospital Review: "Our goal from the outset of negotiations with the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals has remained the same: to address the concerns nurses have raised while also balancing our commitment to providing high quality, affordable healthcare in our community. We have done this by doubling our wage offer, agreeing to substantial increases for nurses in different roles, responding to staffing concerns and enhancing benefits instead of asking for concessions, as is common in many labor negotiations around the country."

Both sides are slated to return to the bargaining table Aug. 13 with the help of a federal mediator.


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