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News :: Labor
Baystate Nurses Strike Averted - Agreement Reached
09 Feb 2014
The one day labor union strike by nurses at the Franklin County Baystate hospital has been called off. An injury to one is an injury to all.
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Baystate Nurse.jpg
Baystate Franklin Medical Center Nurses Reach Tentative Agreement With Baystate Health, Averting One-day Unfair Labor Practice Strike Planned for Feb. 10, 2014 ( )

The registered nurses of Baystate Franklin Medical Center (BFMC) have reached a tentative agreement on a new five-year contract, averting a one-day strike that was planned for Monday, Feb. 10. The pact provides protections the nurses had sought to prevent the use of mandatory overtime as an alternative to providing safe staffing at the hospital. It also includes improvements to the nurses’ health insurance benefit and will grant the nurses pay raises.

The settlement was reached during negotiations held Thursday and Friday.

“We are thrilled to have finally reached an agreement that will provide the protections we need to ensure our patients receive the care they have come to expect from the nurses at Baystate Franklin Medical Center,” said Linda Judd, a longtime nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United local bargaining unit at BFMC. “This is an agreement where everybody wins: our patients, our nurses, our employer and our community”

Judd was quick to acknowledge all the support the nurses received from the communities throughout Franklin County in reaching this hard-fought victory that stretched over more than two years and 44 negotiating sessions.

“In reaching this settlement it is important to recognize all those in our community, including thousands of individual residents, as well as local public officials, who stood with the nurses through this long struggle. We also want to thank State Senator Stanley Rosenberg for hosting these negotiations over the last two days, with a special thanks to Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman James McGovern, who spearheaded the effort to get the parties together this week, and without whom we would not have achieved this resolution.”

Highlights of the Tentative Agreement

The new contract covers five years, and expires on Dec. 31, 2016. Highlights of the agreement include:

• Baystate withdrew its proposal to eliminate “daily overtime.” Baystate’s call for this concession, where they would pay overtime only after 40 hours worked was the key sticking point in the talks. Instead the parties agreed to maintain the nurses’ current benefit, with the addition of a one-hour grace period for daily overtime. This means that any work that is performed beyond one hour after the end of a nurse’s scheduled shift triggers payment of time and one half back to the end of the nurse’s scheduled shift; and in all cases, nurses have the protected right to refuse to work over time if he/she feels this would jeopardize the care of his/her patients.

• Baystate has agreed to clear language in the contract obligating Baystate to fully comply with the Massachusetts state law banning mandatory overtime. This law prohibits hospitals from using the dangerous practice of mandatory overtime as an alternative to providing safe staffing and guarantees that no nurse can be required to work beyond their scheduled shift. The hospital had previously refused to provide a contractual guarantee to adhere to the law, which, in combination with their demand for a concession on overtime pay, led the nurses to make a stand and strike over this important patient safety issue.

• An increase in the share of the family health insurance premium that Baystate pays from the current 70 percent of premium to 75 percent of premium.

• Wages and Bonuses: A 4 percent across the board raise for 2014 and an additional 1 percent across the board pay hike each year in 2015 and 2016. In addition nurses will receive bonuses upon ratification of the agreement of $2,000 for nurses who work 36 hours or more; $1,500 for nurses who work 24 hours or more and $1,000 for nurses who work less than 24 hours per week.

The nurses had announced their plan to conduct a one-day unfair labor practice strike on Monday, Feb. 10, in direct response to Baystate Health’s illegal declaration of impasse two weeks ago and its plan to implement its last offer, which would eliminate the nurses overtime benefit. As part of the settlement, Baystate agreed to rescind its declaration of impasse and the nurses agreed to withdraw a number of charges they had filed with the National Labor Relations Board that arose out of this dispute.

There has been an outpouring of support for nurses’ collective bargaining rights over the last year. At the Democratic State Convention held in Springfield last summer, the convention delegates unanimously passed a resolution calling on Baystate to conduct good faith negotiations with the MNA/NNU nurses and to come to a fair agreement. The Greenfield City Council passed a similar resolution last year. Thousands of Franklin County residents had signed a petition of support for the Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses and delegations of community supporters and elected officials had called on Baystate to avoid further conflict and settle a fair contract with the nurses at BFMC.

The nurses and a growing coalition of community members and leaders have also been working together on a campaign to preserve and expand vital health care services at Baystate Franklin Medical Center. In concluding their contract negotiations today, the nurses pledged their continued commitment to this effort.

“The nurses appreciate the deep and broad community and political support that has been shown across Franklin County,” said Donna Stern, RN, a nurse at the facility and co-chair of the bargaining unit. “And as committed caregivers and members of this community, we look forward to continuing our efforts to work with our community allies to ensure patients have access to the full range of services they need right here in Franklin County.”

See Vimeo: We're Not Gonna Take It
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Re: Baystate Nurses Strike Averted - Agreement Reached
11 Feb 2014
NURSES AT Franklin Medical Center won a clear victory with a tentative agreement achieved late on February 7. Facing an unfair labor practices strike and growing organized support for it in the community, management at Baystate Health Systems was forced to return to negotiations with the registered nurses (RNs), who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA).

The contract, if nurses vote on February 13 to ratify it, covers five years, but because it's retroactive to when their last contract expired more than two years ago, it expires in December 2016.

Not only were the nurses able to beat back any major concessions that Baystate had consistently demanded, they also won several important gains.

The impact of the nurses' victory at Franklin Medical Center was felt almost immediately at the other end of the state where registered nurses at Beverly Hospital are in contract negotiations with Northeast Hospital Corporation. When news of the agreement at FMC reached them, Northeast removed a similar policy for weekly overtime from its demands.

THE FIRST lesson in every union-busting playbook is to prolong the negotiation process as long as possible. After 28 months of Baystate's expensive corporate strategy of stalling and intimidation, Donna Stern, a registered nurse and co-chair of the local MNA negotiating committee, explained how the nurses held it all together:

The number one rule in organizing is you have to know your membership, you have reps in every unit, and you have to have one-to-one conversations over and over and over again. This is the difference between a business-union model and a rank-and-file union. Linda Judd [an RN and the other local MNA co-chair] and I did a real grassroots organization drive to educate the membership.

If one of the departments started to lose steam or feel demoralized, we knew about it and we were on it. We'd start to do walk-throughs again, face-to-face meetings. We made ourselves available all the time. I told people, "This is my personal cell phone number. You elected me to be a leader. So you can call me anytime." Our job is to remain cool and say what the hospital is doing is illegal, we're going to prove this is illegal, we are going to get through this, and we're going to win.

One of the keys to success was to also organize the community around the nurses. After the first one-day strike in October 2012, "some nurses did become demoralized that we didn't get what we wanted then," said Stern. "What empowered us then was doing a community forum. Making our struggle part of a community-wide fight for quality local health care."

The nurses showed that what they were fighting for in their contract was inextricably intertwined with standing for quality care for their patients.

In the words of Stern:

What makes this campaign so important--and it's a lesson that unions as a whole need to learn if they are going to regain any traction--is that you have to go beyond the needs of your members. Yes, you have to take care of the needs of new members; that's the power a union.

But you have to go beyond your members and think about the community that you live in, and you have to use it to help empower your community too. And we will continue to work with our allies in the community to ensure patients have access to the full range of services they need right here in Franklin County.
Re: Baystate Nurses Strike Averted - Agreement Reached
05 Mar 2014
Union Solidarity Under Attack - Scabs, Strikes and Funny Women by DAVID MACARAY

People fault Hollywood’s unions (“guilds”) for being too soft, too glitzy, and too privileged to be considered “real” unions in the way the UAW, Teamsters, and Longshoremen are “real.” While there are some obvious differences between industrial unions and Hollywood guilds (for example, at any point in time, roughly 85-percent of Screen Actors Guild members are out of work, which seems crazy), that criticism is a bit misleading.

If we take traditional left-wing politics as evidence of a trade union’s commitment, then we need look no further than the Writers Guild of America (WGA). The WGA is about as left-wing as any outfit you’ll find. Granted, given the post-Reagan tilt to the right, that may not be quite as true today as it was, say, in the 1960s and ‘70s, but it’s still close. And if you compare the WGA’s lefty sensibilities with those of “real” unions, they look like the second-coming of Gus Hall.

Which brings us to comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. I’ve always been a fan of Ellen’s. Although, unlike most reviewers, I didn’t think her latest Oscar hosting performance was worth a flying gee-whiz (too much goofing around and too much schmoozing with the audience), she’s always made me laugh and always seemed eminently likeable.

In 2007, the WGA went on strike. Ellen, a WGA member, was criticized for crossing the picket line. Normally, when you do that, it automatically makes you a scab. But in the case of Hollywood’s convoluted guild system—Writers Guild, Directors Guild of America (DGA), Screen Actors Guild (SAG)— these things tend not to be as cut-and-dried as they are with those “real” unions.

Briefly, there were some weird factors in ’07. For one, Ellen was/is also a member of AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), which supposedly had a no-strike clause barring her from recognizing WGA pickets. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s what I read. For another, it was the WGA East (the New York branch) that criticized her. The Hollywood branch of the WGA remained conspicuously silent.

And for another, while the WGA East singled out Ellen, they didn’t go after three other obvious targets—Oprah, Rachel Ray, and Dr. Phil—none of whom, unlike Ellen, went on a one-day “sympathy strike” with the writers before (reluctantly we like to think) crossing that picket line. Moreover, by all accounts, the writers didn’t hold a grudge. Apparently, they understood her dilemma.

Again, I’m not making excuses for union members who scab. We all know what scabbing means, and we all know the punishment a scab deserves (and used to receive back in the good old days, before the courts changed all that). But Hollywood is different. It shouldn’t be different, but it is. And when you belong to multiple unions, as Ellen DeGeneres does, it’s even more different.

But here’s an account of something that disappointed us way more than the Ellen episode did. In the 1980s I was one of the union negotiators who called a strike at an industrial site. After setting up pickets at four gates and the railroad track, we contacted the Teamsters and asked them to honor our picket lines. They responded with a questionnaire. Here’s a copy of it:

“Name and address of union:
Name and address of company:
Nature of the company’s business:
Is the employer represented by or a member of an employer association?
Is the company a division or subsidiary of another company?
Is a strike now in progress?
Is there a picket line?
Location of picket line if not the same as above company address:
Reason for strike or picket line:
Does your union have an existing or recently expired contract with this employer?
If so, give the expiration date:
Is your union the bargaining representative of the employees involved, pursuant to NLRB certification?
Has your union ever been decertified as the bargaining representative of the employees involved?
Is a petition for an election pending with the NLRB?
Has an unfair labor practice been filed with NLRB?
Are any other unions involved?
Does your union have strike sanction from your International union and/or Intermediate Body?”

This surprised us. It was more complicated than applying for a home loan. Our strike lasted 57 days, but we never heard back from the Teamies. The truth of the matter is that ever since Taft-Hartley (1947), union solidarity has been under attack. One union can’t legally support the strike of another, which totally undermines any hope of concerted action. Which is exactly what Corporate America wants.

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd edition), is a former union rep.