Tenet Massachusetts hospital nurses strike enters second week; another union pickets: 7 things to know

Nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., began the second week of a strike March 15 as their dispute with hospital management remains unresolved.

Seven things to know:

1. Nurses belonging to the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents 800 Saint Vincent nurses, began striking March 8.

2. Saint Vincent, part of Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, said it has spent $5.4 million to hire replacement workers; 115 nurses crossed the picket line to join replacement workers and continue patient care.

3. The strike comes after 18 months of negotiations. The union said hospital management is not doing enough to address what it calls a lack of appropriate staffing, which jeopardizes patient safety. The hospital contends it listened to nurses and offered a proposal with a generous wage package, enhanced emergency room security and increases in staffing guidelines.

4. During the strike, the hospital enacted new security measures. This includes requiring workers to scan their employee badges before entering the hospital, according to a staff memo from CEO Carolyn Jackson, obtained by the Worcester Business Journal. Uniformed police officers are also accompanying striking workers, security is at each hospital entrance, and two entrances have been opened on the basement level.

5. As the strike continues, another union representing Saint Vincent workers held an informational picket March 13. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445, which represents 600 workers including patient care assistants, critical care technicians, clerks, clinical support, housekeeping, radiology assistants, OR aides, and pulmonary techs, expressed concerns about staff and patient safety in a March 10 news release, as well as patient-to-staff ratios it said increased 50 percent in the past 15 years.

Hospital spokesperson Rhiana Sherwood said in a statement that the hospital offered United Food and Commercial Workers a generous proposal that includes wage increases of 10 percent to 25 percent over the contract term; increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour; increasing Saint Vincent's share of health insurance premiums for some part-time employees; and addresses multiple other issues raised by union members. Workers have been offered bonuses of $250 or $500 if the hospital's offer is approved by the union by March 19.

6. Ms. Jackson wrote a letter to the Massachusetts Nurses Association March 14, alleging several recent incidents of bullying and intimidation by union representatives and members related to the strike and contract negotiations. Alleged incidents cited by the CEO include texting pictures of wounds to nurses as a way of calling them "scabs"; photographing license plates of cars of nurses who crossed the picket line; yelling "I know where you park" to nurse managers as they drive into work; and posting the location of the hotel where some of the replacement nurses are staying.

In response to the allegations, the Massachusetts Nurses Association expressed distrust in hospital management's claims and said in a statement March 15: "There were some isolated incidents where nurses who crossed the line were subject to ridicule at the hospital entrance and on a private nurses group [Facebook] page for their decision to undermine the nurses effort to improve care at the hospital, and those incidents were addressed immediately."

7. Nurses are scheduled to strike from 6 a.m. to midnight daily until an agreement is reached. 


More articles on human resources:
Oregon hospital workers strike
COVID-19 vaccination center won't be affected if nurses strike, Massachusetts hospital CEO says
Former Maine hospital housekeeping director says he was fired for raising safety concerns

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