Latest News- Negotiations 2011

Past updates available:

Welcome to our dedicated site section to keep you informed on the negotiations. Visit this page often for all the latest news.

Report from Contract Negotiations April 2011

WHC Administration representatives continue to take the position that they believe their “imposed” terms are not only reasonable, they are “above the market” and that most nurses are fine with the cuts in pay. They convey the impression that it is only leaders of the union, and a few very senior nurses, who even noticed the changes when their cuts took effect. From the administration’s perspective, most nurses can simply work harder and longer if they want to make up the difference in their paychecks.

At the same time, MedStar reported the largest profit for any three-month period in its history: $57 million in profit for the three-month period between October 1–December 31, 2010, while staffing on many units too often sinks to near-dangerous levels. Despite MedStar’s profitability, the company continues to insist that the dedicated WHC staff nurses should see cuts in their pay, benefits and paid time off.

In our most recent meeting with WHC on April 7, the Union Negotiating Committee made concrete suggestions to reach principled compromises on a few key issues:

  • Health Care. Establish a Flexible Spending Account where WHC would contribute money to offset increases in co-payments and deductibles.
  • PTO. Allow some form of cash-out for nurses who reach the maximum accrual rate.
  • Staffing. Enable staff nurses time away from the bedside with each other to examine practice and staffing problems and require nursing management to respond quickly and in writing with their proposed solutions to such problems.
  • Wages. Reasonable increases in wages; cap on the wage scale at 35 rather than 30.
  • Differentials. Nurses receiving percentage-based differentials should not see cuts to their income. “Red circle” in a specific dollar amount what nurses were paid under percentage terms and leave such amount in place. While the differential amount would stop going up, it would not go down either.
  • We have another bargaining session scheduled for Friday, April 15.

Important Strike Vote

Based on management’s continued failure to reach a fair settlement with the union and its brazen implementation of the shift differential take-away, the Facility Bargaining Council (FBC) met late on April 7 and overwhelmingly voted to recommend a one-day, unfair labor practice strike. Your vote will authorize the FBC to call the strike. The FBC will determine the date of the strike shortly after the strike vote.

The RNs of WHC demand an end to:

  • Unsafe Patient Care Conditions
  • Cuts in Shift Differential Pay
  • Disrespect of Staff Nurses
  • Violations of Federal Labor Laws
  • The Attack on our Nursing Practice

We want:

  • Respect at Work
  • Safe Staffing
  • The Maintenance of Nursing Standards

The decision is yours to make.The vote will take place in Room G0-08 (next to G0-02) at Washington Hospital Centeron the following dates/times:

  • Sunday, April 17, 6:00 a.m.—midnight
  • Monday, April 18, 6:00 a.m.—midnight
  • Tuesday, April 19, 6:00 a.m.—midnight
  • Wednesday, April 20, 6:00 a.m.—midnight

ALL Staff Nurses are encouraged to vote.

For more information, please contact your Facility Bargaining Council representative or Union Steward.

ADO ("Assignment Despite Objection") update

Please review the ADO update (pdf) for important information.

2010 Negotiation and ULP Bulletins

September 20 update: 10 Years Ago Today

On September 20, 2000 nurses stood together and walked out of Washington Hospital Center. We were forced to strike by an employer that refused to show us the respect and dignity we deserve. We stayed out of the hospital, strong and united, for 47 days. Because of our unity, we returned to work victorious.

We won restrictions on mandatory overtime, a meaningful voice in decision making regarding patient care, and justice for nurses targeted for their union activity.

There are many nurses still at WHC who led and participated in the 2000 strike. We remember how difficult it was: time away from our patients and seeing scabs working our jobs, not caring for as patients as we do. We sacrificed our pay, and some of us even went without food in a fast.

We also remember the powerful feeling of solidarity we had when walking the picket line with our fellow nurses. We remember seeing the Washington, DC community come out strongly in support of us. And most of all, we remember walking back into the hospital proud, knowing that we had shown management that, if we stand together, they can not deny us the respect and dignity we deserve.

We all know that things are different now than they were in 2000. The economy is weaker and large companies like MedStar have consolidated power in the health care industry and are waging a national war against nurses. They are trying to convince us, and the public, that we are not worth the money we make and that they can run hospitals safely with poorly paid staff and temporary agency nurses.

We know that this is not true, and we are committed to fighting back - for patients and ourselves - as we have throughout the 32 years we have been united as union members.

Our next step is to join the national movement of nurses that is fighting back against these large hospital conglomerates. This national movement is National Nurses United. NNU is 155,000 members strong, they have successfully organized thousands of nurses since December in places like Texas and Kansas City, and they have had successful strikes in Minnesota and Philadelphia. They have passed laws for patient ratios in California and even extended them to hospitals in Nevada.

On October 3, 4, and 5 we will vote YES to affiliate with NNU and send a strong message to MedStar and the WHC that we are even stronger than we were 10 years ago and we remain committed to holding on to the respect and dignity we have fought so hard for.

Vote to affiliate with NNU:

  • Sunday October 3, 6am-midnight : room 5B3
  • Monday October 4, 6am-midnight : room BB17
  • Tuesday October 5, 6am-midnight : room BB17

September 15 Hospital raises insurance rates, blames union? DON'T BE FOOLED!

Since we began contract negotiations with Washington Hospital Center over six months ago, we have stayed strong and united in the face of WHC management's campaign to divide us. They have tried to sell us massive wage cuts despite the hospital's healthy operating margins (profits) and MedStar's CEO making $2.7 million a year.

There is a new culture of disrespect for nurses that management is creating in the hospital. It started even before contract negotiations began with the mandatory flu vaccine, contract violations, mistreatment, discipline, and firing of nurses during the February snowstorms.

Now management sees us getting stronger. They see us organizing to affiliate with National Nurses United, a 155,000 member union of registered nurses from across the country. They do not want to see this affiliation happen because they know we will be stronger once we are united with NNU.

They are afraid of the unity we are demonstrating through this affiliation, so they are trying harder to divide us. Management has just announced plans to raise our health insurance premiums 11% for 2011. We all know that health insurance costs rise and management can choose to pass on premium increases to us. BUT MOST IMPORTANT THEY COULD ALSO CHOOSE NOT TO RAISE THE COST WE PAY.

MedStar is punishing NU members by passing on an insurance cost increase, while making sure we know they are rewarding the non-union employees with no increase in costs. Managers are also covered under this plan, so while they are passing premium increases on to us, they are keeping their own premiums the same. Remember how they tried to convince Nurses that we make more money then we deserve and we should welcome a pay cut?

During contract negotiations, the hospital proposed having us go to the same health insurance provided to other employees at the hospital. This might sound great at first, but there is a huge catch. Management could decide to change these plans at any time, or stop health insurance coverage completely, and we would have no say. This is the same proposal rejected by almost 1000 voting nurses in late June of this year.

We know that this is part of a plan to weaken nurses and break our union. We will not fall for it.

We know that management is not looking out for our best interests. The way they have been treating us, it seems as if they are not even looking out for patients best interests. Management's decisions are driving nurses away from the hospital leading to dangerous staffing shortages. The short staffing we face on our units comes from an extraordinarily high turnover rate- since early 2005 almost 1200 nurses have left!

Now is the time to turn this around. We will continue to stand strong and united against this management campaign, and we will make our hospital better. On October 3, 4, and 5 we have an opportunity to send a strong message that we will not be pushed or tricked into accepting a contract that so grossly devalues the work we do and puts patients at risk through the inevitable short staffing that will occur. We will vote yes in huge numbers to affiliate with National Nurses United and continue to fight until we win a fair contract.

Vote to affiliate with NNU:

  • Sunday October 3, 6am-midnight : room 5B3
  • Monday October 4, 6am-midnight : room BB17
  • Tuesday October 5, 6am-midnight : room BB17

August 23: update

Nurses United leadership met 8/4 to consider the most effective date to hold the one-day Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike, a job action overwhelmingly approved by secret ballot vote of the membership.

Also, Nurses United's executive leadership invited representatives from National Nurses United (NNU) to our Union office in Silver Spring, to continue discussions around a vision of an affiliation or other formal relationship between Nurses United and NNU.

We have met three times with NNU reps this year, including their attendance at our regular NU membership meeting this past March. In addition, we have invited them back to share information with us at our regularly scheduled Board of Directors meeting August 5.

Our interest in a possible affiliation or formal relationship with NNU is an outgrowth of Nurses United members asking about that very possibility. Soon, we will have important information to share with you about the activities and matters which have been planned for the days and weeks to come.

Thank you for your continued solidarity and patience, your dedication to acute care nursing, your consistent hard work on the job, your valued contribution to the mission of the Union, and your strong commitment to the empowerment of nurses and the nursing profession.

Stay Strong! Stay United!! Stay Tuned!!!

August 12: negotiations update: One-day ULP Strike, National Nurses United

Nurses United last met with the Employer for bargaining on July 28. NU would very much like to settle a fair contract and has attempted to reach a compromise with the Employer that would not negatively affect our patients or us. However, their proposals have changed little since Nurses rejected them in June – they still amount to major economic cut backs for most nurses and could result in compromised patient care by short staffing especially on evening, night and weekend shifts.

Although the Employer insists it is willing to continue bargaining, there is little point to meeting if they are going to continue to insist on unacceptable cuts to our pay and benefits that were already rejected by 98% of Nurses. The Federal Mediator suggested we put things on hold until either party is ready to make a big move. NU is directing our energy towards the one-day ULP strike and has been meeting with National Nurses United, the 150,000 member nation-wide union of RNs, about our future relationship. NU looks forward to returning to negotiations and until then, will continue to build unity and strength.

ONE-DAY ULP STRIKE

Following the affirmative vote to carry out a one-day strike to protest management’s unlawful violation of our contract and mistreatment of Nurses during the February snowstorms, planning is underway. Nearly 80% voted in support of the strike. NU is working to make this a successful action. We know that everyone wants to know the date. As required by law, we will give 10-days notice to the Employer so that they can prepare, and will announce it widely at that time.

Why strike over the ULP now?

  • Six months have passed since the snowstorms and the Employer’s unlawful actions. In this time, despite hundreds of hours of meetings with them, they have refused to right their wrong.
  • We were not able to strike during the term of our contract, so there was not an option to strike until June 19 when the contract expired. We also wanted to give management a chance to resolve this positively, but they have not been willing to. This affected nearly every one of us. We may still need to have a contract-related strike in the future, but this is an opportunity to show our unity and is an important way to hold the Employer accountable. A business that refuses to correct its wrongdoing should not expect “business as usual.”

Returning to work after the strike…

It is difficult to know if, or how many, Nurses will be temporarily prevented from returning to work after the strike. The worst-case scenario presented by the Employer is that Nurses who go on strike could be replaced by scabs with 60-hour contracts - meaning that in the days after the strike, you could be told that there is no work for you. How this might play out for any particular striker is unpredictable. The worst-case scenario is the loss of a few shifts. This is something that Nurses must be prepared for and view it as a comparatively small price to pay for standing up to a bully, fighting for justice, and preventing future mistreatment.

  • NU believes that, as stated in our contract, if there is no work for you on a day you are scheduled, you have the option to take Paid Time Off and get paid for those hours.
  • Management may ask you if you intend to go on strike or come into work. You could tell them: “Yes” or “I don’t want to talk about it.” You cannot be fired or disciplined for telling them you do intend to go on strike, or for refusing to tell them if you intend to strike or not.
  • Management may tell probationary employees or Georgetown fellows that they can be fired or forced to repay loans to the hospital for going on strike. This is not true. Striking does not affect your employment with the hospital. Strikers are still employees of the hospital; they are on strike, but still employed. Probationary employees are legally protected if they participate in a strike
  • This one-day strike may not immediately win us what we want. We may need to put more pressure on management before they do the right thing and settle these unfair labor practice charges. You should be ready for more actions. This can be a difficult and emotional time. Your managers may put a lot of pressure on you. Consider this: The Employer can choose to make things right – this only continues because they refuse to fix it.
  • NU will challenge any management actions that seem inappropriate. Report to your shop steward or any NU leader ASAP if you are threatened in any way by supervisors or managers. The law protects your right to engage in this acti
  • on.

They unlawfully fired Nurses in February, so how do we know they won’t illegally fire us for striking?

  • This is our opportunity to fight the Employer’s disregard and disrespect of Nurses and our contract. This strike will be a strong statement that this must NEVER happen again. However, if we allow their actions to go unresolved and unaddressed, they will see our acceptance and feel free to commit violations in the future, affecting us in unforeseen ways.
  • NU believes it is highly unlikely that the Employer would so blatantly violate federal labor law by taking any action against strikers. This would set themselves up for more Unfair Labor Practices, negative publicity, and possible strikes. In recent Union actions (leafleting, picketing, etc) the hospital has carefully followed labor laws and not interfered with our activity. While their legal counsel seems to have been absent in February, they are now working closely with the Employer to prevent more unlawful acts.

Will a one-day strike be effective?

A strike is part of a larger strategy to remedy the unfair labor practices and will show the Employer what we are capable of and that they should not underestimate the unity and strength of Nurses. Bringing in scab nurses to replace us will cost hundreds or thousands of dollars; righting the wrongs the committed in February would be much more cost effective. They have the opportunity to make things right and prevent this strike. Employers sometimes hesitate to make a change directly after a strike, not wanting to admit their wrong or appear weak. The Union will continue to work on the ULP charge – gathering supporting evidence and making a case before the National Labor Relations Board.

NATIONAL NURSES UNITED

National Nurses United (NNU) is a nation-wide union of Registered Nurses that is 150,000 members strong. Their recent success in winning fair contracts at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia and 14 hospitals in Minnesota is inspiring and hopeful. NU and NNU have been discussing our working relationship and collaboration since March, and, recently, NU leadership and NNU have been meeting to discuss furthering this relationship. NNU has committed to support us through our upcoming efforts with their resources and expertise. Working with NNU will make us stronger. Stay tuned for more information about NU’s evolving relationship with NNU.

ULP one-day strike: August 2: Nurses Vote Overwhelmingly For One-Day Unfair Labor Practice STRIKE

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of last week, Nurses United members came together and voted in huge numbers to STRIKE for one day over the unfair treatment and disrespect shown to us by management during and after the snowstorms in February. Hundreds of nurses came out to vote and show our unity, strength, and solidarity in the face of mistreatment by management. Nearly 80% of voting members voted in favor of the Unfair Labor Practice strike, easily surpassing the two-thirds majority required for approval.

Preparing to Strike

Our “yes” votes were important, but now we have to get ready to show management that we are serious and willing to take a ction. Ten days before the strike day, we will announce the date and time of the one-day Unfair Labor Practice strike. We are required by law to give ten days notice to management. They will most likely begin to prepare by bringing in scab nurses as temporary staff while we are out on strike. We know from the past that these temporary nurses are unprepared for the patient acuity that Nurses United members deal with on a daily basis. The scab nurses do not know Washington Hospital Center, they are unfamiliar with the high standards held by Nurses United RNs, and they may not give patients the highest quality of care they have come to expect.

We hope that management will take this opportunity to do the right thing. They can avoid spending hundreds of thousands of dollars bringing scab nurses into our hospital and creating unnecessary risks. It is not the current management team that broke the law by unilaterally imposing a new policy about snow absences. The new management team can easily put this behind them by settling these ULP charges. The nurses who were unlawfully terminated should be brought back with back pay, disciplines should be removed, and we should be given assurance that this will not happen again.

In the coming days, look for more communications from Nurses United leadership about the timing of the strike. We will answer any questions about what you should do on the strike day, how to document any management threats and intimidation, and the process for returning all striking nurses to work. We will continue to stand strong and united until management shows us the respect we deserve.

Stand United!

July 22: ULP Strike: NURSES KEEP THE PRESSURE ON

Following a highly successful informational picket on Monday, July 19, Nurses are keeping the pressure on Washington Hospital Center Management in our fight for fairness on the job. Over the coming weeks we will continue to send a clear message to management that we will NOT accept disrespect and mistreatment of Nurses.

UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE CHARGES AND ONE DAY PROTEST STRIKE

As August nears, the six-month anniversary of the February snowstorms is upon us and the memory is still fresh of management's vicious threats, their illegal unilateral policy change, the undeserved disciplines and outrageous terminations of Nurses's employment. This was direct, personal, and affected nearly every Nurse. Nine nurses have still not returned to work. While Nurses worked hard and sacrificed during the snowstorms, as we have many times before, WHC management committed its most dramatic and wide-ranging Unfair Labor Practice, reaching all of us. Adding insult to injury, when we showed solidarity with our fellow nurses by wearing black ribbons, management demanded we remove the ribbons, adding to their unlawful and discriminatory actions.

Nurses United has made every effort to resolve this but the Employer has failed to set things right. On July 8, 2010, NU filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the hospital for these violations of the law (a copy of the ULP charge is posted on the this website).

The time has come for Nurses to stand up and protest the Employer's labor law violations, to demand justice and hold management accountable. Their treatment of Nurses in February is part of an unacceptable pattern of disrespecting Nurses. For each of us who faced a threat, who drove to work scared for our lives, who tried but couldnâ?Tt make it, who could not find appropriate childcare, who received a discipline or discharge, and for the nine whose inability to get to work in blizzard-conditions cost them their jobs, we are united and we say: No more, never again!

For one day, let us withhold our labor and send the most powerful message we can to our Employer: An injustice to one is an injustice to all! We will not accept this kind of treatment! The nine nurses must be permitted to return to work, the unlawful actions must be remedied, and this can never happen again.

We are asking members to approve a one-day ULP strike and to stand up in protest because six months after the unlawful mistreatment of all of us and the firing of 18 nurses, these unlawful acts by management remain unremedied. We will show management that we are serious and that they need to return our fellow nurses to work, remove the unjust disciplines and remedy their unlawful actions NOW. Come to the membership meeting to learn more, and come to vote YES in solidarity with your fellow nurses and show management we are strong and united!

Unfair Labor Practice one-day protest strike Q and A:

Question: Why a one-day Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike?

Answer: A one-day protest is symbolically powerful. The Employerâ?Ts unlawful treatment of Nurses during the snowstorms cannot be tolerated. We stand up together to demand justice and demand that labor law violations be remedied. Managementâ?Ts unlawful conduct is part of a broader pattern of disrespect, and the ULP strike is a strong statement that we will not accept it.

Question: If I participate in this one-day ULP strike, can I lose my job?

Answer: No! This strike is to protest an Unfair Labor Practice. The law says that employees cannot be fired or permanently replaced for striking over ULPs and their right to return to their jobs is protected by the National Labor Relations Act.

Question: What is an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) Strike?

Answer: In a ULP strike, we join together to protest a labor law violation by the employer and push management to remedy their violation. In this case, WHC unilaterally changed its inclement weather policy, without notice to the Union, and they used that unlawful change to fire and discipline nurses, in clear violation of labor law. In addition, they committed unlawful anti-union discrimination, and they prevented us from wearing ribbons in solidarity with those who were fired or disciplined. We will be stopping work for one day to get management to remedy their wrongdoing. Management is notified that once our specified one-day ULP strike period is over, we are prepared to go back to work unconditionally, and we have a legal right to return to our jobs.

Question: Will I be able to return to work the next day?

Answer: This is a difficult question to answer because it may not be the same for everyone. For many Nurses, it is likely that you will be able to return to work the next day. But the Employer may hire some temporary replacements " scabs" or may decide to cut back in some areas, and there could be a brief delay in putting all Nurses back on the regular schedule. Based on other one-day Nurse strikes, we think the hospital would have difficulty justifying time of more than four days, and we think that very few Nurses might experience this.

Question: What do I do if I am scheduled to work during the ULP strike?

Answer: Do NOT call out sick. Do not report to work. There will be a picketing schedule - come picket during your allotted time.

Question: What do I do if I am NOT scheduled to work during the strike?

Answer: Do NOT agree to take a shift if you are called by the hospital. Come join your fellow nurses on the ULP picket line. DO NOT go inside the hospital.

Question: What preparations should I make for this strike?

Answer: We recognize that this one-day strike will have a significant economic impact on many nurses, especially those who may be prevented from working additional days after the strike. We have been encouraging people to save in the event that we have to go on a longer strike in the future; you should continue to save. Work overtime now if you can. Take this opportunity to sign up for an agency. Continue to prepare for a longer strike in the future.

Question: Can I use PTO?

Answer: No.

Question: What if the Employer agrees to hire back all the fired Nurses? Will the strike be canceled?

Answer: ULP charges can be settled and often are resolved with the NLRBâ?Ts approval at early stages in the process, if the remedy is adequate; and union strike notices can be withdrawn. NU would monitor all developments in our case and consider how best to proceed.

Question: As a new nurse, if I go on strike, what about my debt to the hospital and probationary status?

Answer: New and probationary nurses have the same rights and protections under federal labor law as everyone else in the union. Striking is not the same as quitting your job -- on strike, you are still an employee protected by federal labor law. Debt for the residency program or as a Georgetown scholar will not become due if you go on strike. Some managers may be confused and spreading rumors, but according to the hospital's own lawyer, your right to strike is protected.

July 19: Negotiation and Picket Update

(This update is also available as a flyer: open the flyer to get a pdf version for your unit. Please make sure your unit's Union board has the latest information!)

The Union's morning informational picket on July 19 was lively and successful! Our message was clear and many patients, doctors, visitors, employees, managers, and others in the community heard us loud and clear: WHC RNs need a fair contract!

The informational picket was from 7am - 9am, Monday July 19. There were over 300 Nurses United members on three picket lines (First and Irving, First and Michigan, Michigan near the reservoir) plus other nurses leafleting at the main entrance, bus circle, and bridge. Many nurses came out after their night shift, on their day off, or before their shift.

The presence of WIN P nurses was especially strong. The Employer's efforts to cut the wages of nurses would hit this category of nurse especially hard. A WIN P nurse could face cuts in her take home pay of tens of thousands of dollars. Many WIN nurses say they would look for work elsewhere should the Employer's proposals take effect, which would have negative effects for all of us. In last week's bargaining, the Employer made only slight modifications to the proposals rejected by 98% (almost 1000) voting nurses a few weeks ago.

We received many encouraging words from those who passed by the picket line or were given leaflets. Many were surprised that we are still in negotiations and do not yet have a contract. They spoke of the excellent care they or their family members have received in the hospital, but agreed that we need more nurses at the bedside. They said "good luck!" and wished us well.

We appreciate the well wishes from so many in the public, but it is the strength and unity of the 1600 Nurses that keeps us moving forward to our goal; a fair contract. If you were not able to come out this morning, or even if you did, and are hungry for more opportunities to make your voice heard, stay tuned ! More actions are coming up. Our momentum is building.

As is usually the case in protracted negotiations, the FMCS Mediator will call the parties together. That call may come at any time and when that call comes, we certainly hope the Employer will take seriously our position on a number of open issues. Be assured, your Union Negotiation Team WILL BE READY! You, the membership, give the strength and will to stand strong against the negotiation insults by the Employer.

Thank you for all you do to move the Union forward.

Stay Strong! Stay United!! Stay Tuned!!!

July 16: Update and NEXT STEPS!!

We had another negotiation session on Thursday July 15 with the Employer.

They had reviewed our proposals from Wednesday's session - a Union package that included some compromises while we largely maintained wages and good benefits. We explained that it was our best effort to give Management a good deal that likely would avoid a nurse work stoppage at WHC.

There response was little movement with proposals that continue to keep us far apart on issues that will recruit and retain the best nurses.

Folks, we have the identified strength of 1,000+ nurses at WHC and the silent strength of many others who are ready to support us. We need to continue to exercise our lawful right to picket and let the public know what is happening to nurses and nursing at WHC.

Be a part of our next planned Union action - a legally protected concerted activity:
INFORMATIONAL PICKET OF WHC NURSES
MONDAY July 19 from 7 AM to 9 AM.
EVERY NU MEMBER IS INVITED and we are especially encouraging the WIN-P NURSES and ANY NURSE WORKING SUNDAY NIGHT to come out after their shift and join the picket line.

It is important to have a visible show of our commitment to preserve our good jobs, improve our workplace, promote safe care, AND TO KEEP THE WIN PROGRAM AS IT IS NOW! Our CURRENT WIN program has been a key part of quality care at WHC, and we are determined to keep it working!

We would like you to join in:

* Informational Picket *

* July 19, 7AM-9AM *

* Meet at First and Irving Streets, NW *

Please let us know that you will attend! Write to: NursesUnitedOrg@aol.com

  • Please wear your WHC ID
  • Wear your purple NU t-shirt if you have one – or scrubs if you don’t.
  • We will bring some picket signs
  • Make your own sign if you feel inspired!

If you can't attend this picket, don't worry; there will be plenty of opportunities to be involved as we move forward in this struggle together.

See 'ya on Monday morning! Stay Strong! Stay United!! Stay Tuned!!!

In Solidarity,
Dottie, Stephen, Lori, Greg, Geri, Megan, Martina, Kathy, Randy

July 15: Join the picket line, defend the WIN program!

So far, Washington Hospital Center management has not yet moved off of its unreasonable proposals at the bargaining table – essentially, the same proposals that were REJECTED by an overwhelming 98% vote last month.

On Wednesday July 14, 2010 - the NU Negotiation Team presented a comprehensive package proposal that covers all open parts of the contract, in a good faith effort to reach a final agreement. It includes some compromises, while largely maintaining current wages and good benefits.

The Employer knows we are strong, united and preparing for a strike. The Union is giving WHC a reasonable opportunity to reach a fair contract now, without a strike. Let’s continue to show Management that we will not accept pay cuts that threaten our efforts to improve staffing and ensure quality patient care at WHC!

The next step in expressing our unity and strength is hitting the streets together in a series of informational pickets and other activities giving voice and focus to all areas of our Nurses United membership. We will begin with informational picketing on Monday, July 19 from 7AM-9AM. Everyone who can make it should be there, but we are especially encouraging WIN-P nurses and anyone working Sunday night to come after their shift and join the picket line. It is important to have a visible show of our commitment to preserve our good jobs, improve our workplace, and promote safe care. Our WIN program has been a key part of quality care at WHC, and we are determined to keep it working.

Stay tuned!

July 14: Return to Negotiations

On the morning of July 13, 2010, the NU Negotiation Team returned to the bargaining table to meet with the Employer. We carried with us the strength and unity of NU’s 1600 members – your overwhelming vote to reject the Employer’s proposals and the declaration of “No Confidence in Management" inspires us and gives us strength.

The Employer gave us proposals relating to the pension, the WIN program, and wages. In each case, they offered minor tweaks and very minimal increases – no substantial changes. (Visit the proposals page to review.)

We asked “Are you serious about getting a contract?”

There has to be a lot more movement on the Employer's part before we are even close to an acceptable contract!

The WHC’s management continues to crumble, possibly contributing to their apparent lack of commitment to achieving a contract anytime soon. The Senior VP of Human Resources, Christina Younger, has been added to the growing list of management who have suddenly “resigned” - her last date of employment was July 1, 2010.

While management is in chaos, NU is stronger then ever. Members are united. We have made our position clear. The NU Negotiation Team is committed to bargaining at the table and together, the 1600 of us must be committed to taking action for a fair contract that promotes quality care.

Our next action will be an Informational Picket on July 19 from 7am to 9am. We will be sending out more information shortly. Please mark your calendars.

This is just one of a series of actions we are planning. If you can't make it on the 19th, rest assured that you can participate in what we have coming.

We will negotiate again in the afternoon of July 14.

Stay Strong! Stay United!! Stay Tuned!!!

July 3: IMPORTANT UPDATE!!!

After the resounding and powerful vote to Reject the Employer's contract proposals on June 25 and 26, we definitely sent a clear message:

" WE ARE UNITED IN OUR BELIEF THAT NURSES DESERVE WHAT THEY HAVE WORKED AND STRUGGLED SO HARD TO ACHIEVE".

Nurses United has a number of membership unity activities mapped out for the coming days and weeks; this is to continue sending the message to the Employer and the Public that Nurses DESERVE A FAIR CONTRACT! With this in mind, we have been doing some prep work - determining who, among our membership, is a natural leader. These leaders will assist and support others on her/his unit to understand what would be lost by all of us if the Employer’s proposals were to take effect.

We need to know where all of those natural leaders are located and we need to know that the Union membership and Union Leaders will stand tall, proud and united in this next phase of our goal towards a fair contract for nurses at WHC. We will also assess who needs more information, as well as which members might choose to throw away all of the hard work and dedication we've struggled 32 years to achieve. The Employer is gambling that we won't be ready to defend the great strides we have made over the years. Union Leaders will be asking members: "Are you ready?" We have said, as a Union, we do not want a strike, but WE WILL IF WE HAVE TO - as a last resort.

We already know that 987 of you voted to REJECT the contract the Employer put forward, and more than 1,300 of you signed your names to the "Vote of No Confidence in management" petitions protesting Management's bargaining proposals. We think that a strong majority of our members know how important it is to stand in solidarity on these attacks on nurses. We need to know that you are and will remain solid and united in this next phase of the Union's plan.

A commonly asked question is: "Why do we need to strike?"

Answer: "That is what the Employer seems to understand best. Management needs to know that nurses will remain united against major cutbacks that will strip thousands of dollars from dedicated nurses and make it harder to recruit and retain the nursing professionals we need to deliver excellent patient care at WHC. We want the Employer to guarantee the hiring of more RN's and to stop the revolving door of nurses being hired but then leaving within a year or so of being hired. We need an increase in patient safety and quality care, and that means improving not worsening working conditions for nurses".

In the coming days and weeks, you should expect a visit on your unit or a phone call from a Union Leader who will be assessing your position on striking - a strike means legally withholding our services in order to win a fair contract. If ALL of us participate in a strike, we will all be back to work SOONER than if some nurses stay in - which would serve to weaken our position.

REMEMBER,OUR SUCCESS AND THE SUCCESS OF GAINING A NEW FAIR CONTRACT DEPENDS ON EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US. It depends on what decision you will make when we bring the question of a work stoppage to a final membership vote.

Meanwhile, we will resume negotiations with the Employer on Tuesday July 13 at 9:00 AM.

As we have been saying for months, please continue to prepare:

  • Save money
  • Delay large purchases
  • Sign up for Agency work
  • Get your Md. or Va. license
  • Prepare with a determined attitude that your and our future depends on unity around the work stoppage issue.

We will also be putting out fliers on how to notify your mortgage company and or credit card companies to delay payment or reduce monthly payments and how to obtain COBRA health insurance if we vote to go out on strike. The Union has been on strike twice before - in 1978 and in 2000 - and we were successful both times. We are experienced with what to do and how to get it done as Nurses United! Your responsibility is to support the goals of the Negotiation Team and Membership: fight for safer patient care, for increased staffing, and to retain our well deserved benefits.

Stay Strong! Stay United!! Stay Tuned!!!

June 28: Nurses REJECT management’s proposed contract!

Union leaders checking the vote count.
Seated L to R: Anita Nickens RN - OR, and Lori Marlowe, RN - 4D
Standing L to R: Megan Caine, RN - Float Pool, Stephen Frum RN - 4H, Beth Landry RN - PACU, Greg Pelletier RN - CVRR

On Friday and Saturday Nurses United members came out in huge numbers to vote and send a strong message to WHC management that we will not accept continued staffing shortages or reductions in benefits and wages. In a remarkable turnout, 1008 of the 1600 members voted, with 987 voting to reject management’s proposal and only 21 voting to accept.

Nurses showed their unity in the fight for a fair contract by voting overwhelmingly to reject managements’ latest proposals. When NU returns to the bargaining table, the negotiating team will carry a clear and powerful message from Nurses that we are united.

What’s happening now?

We are currently working without a contract. During this time the provisions in the old contract remain in effect; however management will not pay nurses their Date Next Eligible (DNE) increases. We can file grievances but we cannot take them to arbitration. Management cannot impose any new contract terms until they have given us their “final offer” and we have reached impasse at the bargaining table. This has not happened yet. We do not yet have a date for our next bargaining session, but we hope to meet with management again by mid-July.

What happens next?

This weekend’s vote was not a strike vote. We do not want to go on strike, but we will if we have to. Our first choice is to resolve this at the negotiation table. A strike is our most powerful tool, and should it be necessary, we need to be ready to use it. Everyone should be saving money and applying to agencies so if management does not back off their harmful proposals, we will be prepared to do what it takes to get a fair deal.

What can I do to help us win?

We need to keep showing our strength and unity. Continue to prepare to go on strike. Encourage your coworkers to prepare. We have a plan to win a good contract by increasing pressure on the Employer to show us the respect we deserve without having to walk off our jobs. The more they see that we are ready to go out, the more likely it is we won't have to.

Assignment Despite Objection (ADO) forms

ADO forms are a very concrete way to identify and document patterns of inadequate staffing and unsafe work environments. Fill one out every time it’s relevant and fax it to the union. We want to accurately track this major problem in order to demonstrate to the hospital and the public the staffing crisis we face.

The bargaining team is looking forward to meeting with management soon.

Stay Strong! Stay United!! Stay Tuned!!!

June 21: IMPORTANT UNION VOTE

Nurses United Negotiation Team is recommending: REJECTION of the Employer's proposals.

When: Friday June 25 and Saturday June 26, 2010

Time: 7:30 AM to 12:00 Midnight - both sessions

Where: Room G0-02 (Ground Floor of East Building)

What: Vote to reject Employer's proposals

How: In person - by secret ballot

Who: All Nurses United members in good standing. Show picture ID at voting room entrance so your Union membership can be verified. We will have a complete listing of all NU members.

NOW: ALL contract proposals are on our Nurses United web page. Review the language on which you will be voting, available on this web site.

NOTE: Negotiation Team members will be in attendance during both voting sessions to present a brief but comprehensive review of proposal changes to members. These reviews will continue throughout the morning, day, and night of both voting sessions.

Make sure you come to vote!
Stay Strong! Stay United!!
See 'Ya on Friday or Saturday to VOTE!!!

June 18: CONTRACT VOTE INFORMATION

View the June 17 2010 proposal (PDF 8.45 MB)

The last day of negotiations ended today, June 17, with NO progress made. After months of effort at the negotiation table, the Employer continues to demand contract changes that devalue nurses and our profession.

The next step is a Rejection Vote of these unacceptable proposals. An overwhelming “No” vote tells management that nurses are not willing to settle for massive wage cutbacks coupled with a lack of commitment to improve staffing. The most important part of this equation is the safety of our patients. We need the best and brightest nurses to stay at WHC and to be attracted to WHC. This will NOT happen with the proposals the Employer has on the table. Quality patient care is in great jeopardy.

By rejecting their insulting contract proposals, we will be sending a powerful message. Please understand that the upcoming vote will NOT be a strike vote. The "No" vote we are planning - a rejection of their contract proposals - will be entirely separate from a possible future strike vote; however, we do need to continue preparations for a potential job action. The vote to reject the Employer's massive "take back" proposals will be Friday June 25 and Saturday June 26 from 7:30am to 12:00 midnight, both days -location to be announced.

All along the Employer has been putting out confusing, inaccurate, and incomplete information about negotiation proposals. DO NOT BE MISLED - Nurses United schedules, announces, and conducts the vote, NOT MANAGEMENT!

In preparation for the vote, we are developing a comprehensive presentation about the content of the employer’s proposed contract changes for your careful review. We want to ensure that each NU member fully understands what he or she is voting on and what it means for nursing, patient care, and the future of the profession. On the two Vote days, the presentation will repeat every 15 minutes with time for Questions and answers.

Following a rejection vote, the NU negotiation team will meet with the Employer’s negotiating team to say: "Nurses United members find the Employer's cutbacks and lack of real commitment to increasing staffing - unacceptable". In a memo that the Employer put out yesterday, they have already said they are willing to continue negotiations should nurses reject their proposals.

There is LOTS we can be doing between now and the two days of voting:

  1. Sign the the “Vote of No Confidence in Management" petition that is circulating. We have hundreds of signatures already and want hundreds more. (You can print out a copy of the petition from the NU website, circulate it to your coworkers, and then give it to your shop steward).
  2. Write letters to the decision makers (go to the home page for more information on this).
  3. Take your 30-minute lunch breaks, and if you can not get coverage for your lunch, notify your manager and make sure you are paid for that 30 minutes of work.
  4. Union leadership has requested a meeting with the WHC new interim president, Dr. Joy Drass, to discuss the nurses’ lack of confidence in management and the absence of progress in negations.

Today is the beginning of the next step in a process of obtaining a fair and decent contract for nurses at WHC. Your strength, patience, energy, and resolve are impressive. Now is the time to stand STRONGER THAN EVER!

Stay Strong! Stay United!! See 'ya - on June 25 and 26 for the Union Vote!!!

June 16: Management in disarray

Washington Hospital Center’s communications to Nurses during the past weeks and months have been all over the map – from patronizing, to provocative, to downright puzzling. The Hospital’s recent messages have left Nurses scratching their heads, wondering “What could they be thinking?!” The level of distrust and disbelief has gotten to the point where members have been calling for a Nurses United petition drive, as a way to register a grassroots Vote of No Confidence in Management.

Your voices were heard, and soon the Hospital will hear from you how they have wrecked their credibility by contract demands that hurt the Nursing professionals who are essential to the Hospital’s mission. Yesterday, Nurses United leaders talked with Nurses from every area of the Hospital, answering questions and explaining the petition. In less than four hours, we gathered several hundred Nurses' signatures! The petition drive is continuing, so every Nurse will have a chance to join in the petition.

Today, the Hospital’s reaction seemed to be one of panic. Management was making rounds on some units promising a "vote" this coming Sunday and Monday – and, what’s more, telling Nurses who are off-duty to come in and "clock in" so they can be paid to vote. What’s going on here?

Nurses to Hospital: TIME FOR A PULSE CHECK!

NURSES UNITED - has not YET announced any vote. With one more scheduled negotiation day remaining, the bargaining team is ready to go to the table and continue our good faith bargaining in an effort to reach a fair contract. STOP intervening in OUR UNION operations, announcing a vote that the Union has not yet even called for! Stop trying to direct the UNION's contract ratification process! As a matter of labor law, getting involved in the "business of our Union is OUT OF BOUNDS.

When the Union is ready to conduct a vote on any matter, you - THE MEMBERS- will be the first to know – from the Union, not from WHC management! The Union's official vote notice will include time/date/location/purpose of the vote process. This is our duty and our responsibility. It is simply not in the Employer's jurisdiction to tell you what to vote, how to vote, when to vote, or what you should think or say as a Nurses United member and decision maker.

Nurses United is the exclusive representative for Collective Bargaining purposes for Nurses at WHC - NOT the Employer. Nurses are tired of Management repeatedly crossing the line, chipping away at employees’ rights, acting unilaterally, disregarding contractual and legal obligations, and making offers and promises in the Hospital that they won’t make over the bargaining table. We intend to hold the Employer accountable to obey the law, to cease and desist from unlawful actions, and return to good faith bargaining.

June 11: Negotiations update

We met yesterday, June 10 and no real progress was made. June 17 is the final scheduled negotiation session before the contract is due to expire at midnight on June 19.

Increased Nurse Staffing by hiring more RN's has been Nurses United's most important issue since the start of negotiations. The Employer may agree to a goal of hiring more nurses but will not commit to that until June of 2011. This is unacceptable. For safe patient care, we need more RN's much sooner than next year.

The Employer has slightly altered their proposal to offer a "bonus" of $1000 if a WIN nurse works 13 straight weekends (or 26 uninterrupted 12 hour shifts). Their proposal is clearly being made as an attempt by the Employer to ease the massive cuts, equaling thousands of dollars per year per WIN nurse, in take-home pay.

Employer's Wage Increase proposal for Regular Nurses throughout the hospital is ZERO dollars for the next 3 years. They are also insisting that the pay scale (DNE annual increase) cease once a nurse has dedicated 30 years of her/his career to WHC. Beyond 30 years of RN dedication to the Hospital, there will be no recognition for continuing experience, enhanced skills development, and other positive aspects the most senior seasoned nurses bring to the hospital, to patient care, and to the health care team. Regarding DNE increases, the Employer seems not to care about the most experienced, most respected, and most highly regarded nurses at the hospital.

Other extremely important issues, such as retaining vital shift differential percentages, the pension plan, health/medical insurance, PTO's and of course, the WIN program are still outstanding with both parties far apart. With little or no movement from the Employer, we have mailed informational letters to 600 of the doctors who work at WHC and who have offices in the POB. In the letters we point out the alarming, and very low, satisfaction scores from patients, doctors, and nurses at WHC. We think our issues should be important to the doctors. We believe physicians should embrace safe patient care, retention of the best nurses, and recruitment of the most qualified nurses.

Finally, nurses and the public continue to ask:
"What has happened to the nurses who were fired for not making it to work during the worst blizzard our region has ever experience?"

Our answer:
"We have been trying to work together with the Employer on a compromise solution that would bring all of the remaining fired nurses back to work. We have been waiting on a decision from them for several weeks. Yesterday, no resolution could be reached, so the Union is planning a press conference on Monday at 11:00 AM regarding this subject. It has been more than four months since this wound was inflicted upon nurses at WHC, and it has festered ever since. It is time for healing so we can all move ahead".

Stay Strong! Stay United!! Stay Tuned!!!

June 10: A More Complete Truth #2

On June 9th the Hospital posted their Negotiation Update, which contained little new information and mainly repeated prior proposals. With your help, Nurses United has been shining a light on some of the distortions and half-truths that are being spread by these Hospital communications. We believe that Nurses deserve a more complete truth, so keep reading, keep asking questions, and keep making our voices heard!

On June 9, the Hospital wrote: “We continue to make steady progress working through proposals designed to enhance patient care, improve staffing and better manage the Hospital Center’s costs and resources at a time of great financial challenges in the healthcare industry.”

  • A more complete truth: The Hospital’s remaining proposals have made no progress toward a fair agreement, and the most important issues have changed very little since their initial presentations. The Hospital is seeking to impose excessive wage and benefit cuts in anticipation of changes that MAY (or may not) occur in the distant future, and WHC has not stated that they are suffering financial hardship.

On June 9, the Hospital wrote: “Addressed the Union’s most important issue in these negotiations by re-stating the Hospital’s commitment to attempt to hire a net of 200 full-time equivalent nurses by June 2011 as one way to consistently meet our staffing goals and guidelines, and reduce the use of agency nurses and overtime. We also have committed to attempting to hire an additional 70 patient care technicians to assist nurses at the bedside.”

  • A more complete truth: Hospital management continues to deny the negative impact that their take-back proposals will have on the Hospitals’ ability to retain experienced Nurses and recruit new Nurses over the next three years.

On June 9, the Hospital wrote: “Our PTO proposal is designed to maintain a generous paid time off benefit for nurses, while at the same time encouraging nurses to use their PTO benefits and take time off for rest and rejuvenation. The Hospital Center’s proposal – intended to bring the RNs into the same PTO program offered to other Hospital Center associates, including management. It includes a generous payout of up to 60 hour [sic] below the maximum accrual for full-time nurses who are at or near the maximum accrual in order to allow them to continue to accrue PTO hours. In response to feedback from nurses, we have altered the original PTO proposal to defer changes until the first full pay period in January 2011.”

  • A more complete truth: By the Hospital’s own calculations, the amount of PTOs earned on an annual basis will be consistently less than the amount of time off currently utilized by Nurses. Management’s solution to improving staffing shortages is to allow nurses less time off.
  • A more complete truth: The Hospital proposes a reduction in the value of unused PTOs. The Hospital proposes a maximum allowable PTO balance, at which point further PTO accumulation will be frozen, and at the end of employment the Hospital will payout only a fraction of your earned PTO value.
  • A more complete truth: Whether the Hospital take-backs go into effect in June 2010 or January 2011, the proposals are still a significant reduction and unacceptable take backs.

On June 9, the Hospital wrote: “Demonstrated our commitment to continuing the weekend nursing program with a proposed $750 lump sum bonus to all WIN nurses who work their scheduled hours for 13 consecutive weekends – a payment on top of the WIN benefits and shift differential paid to nurses in the weekend incentive program.”

  • A more complete truth: The Hospital’s lump sum bonus is equal to $2.40/hour, less taxes, hardly compensation for profound wage decreases. (Also, consider the fact that lump sum bonus payments can be subject to greater Federal and State tax withholding than your regular pay, which would significantly decrease the take-home value of the bonus check.)

On June 9, the Hospital wrote: “Proposed an additional 1 percent increase for Float Pool nurses in the second and third year of a new contract.”

  • A more complete truth: The Float Pool Nurse’s total wage increase would be 2% in a five- year period, from April 2008 until 2013, equaling a 0.4% increase per year over the five year span.
  • A more complete truth: As paltry as that increase turns out to be, what’s even worse is that under the Hospital’s proposal the Float Pool is the only category that would get any across-the-board wage increase in the same five- year period. For example, when the Hospital wants to hire a Nurse with eight years of experience in April 2013, the wage rate for that hire will be the same as it was five years earlier, in April 2008.

June 4: negotiation update

On Friday June 4th, the Hospital and Nurses United met for formal negotiations. Once again very little progress was made. Both parties remain far apart on key issues. There were a few proposals that the Employer passed across the table.

1) Under the Employer's current proposal, WIN nurses will suffer up to a $20,000 per year wage cut. To soften the sledge hammer type blow of this massive pay cut, the Employer has now proposed that a bonus of $750 be given if these WIN Nurses work 13 consecutive 24 hour weekends (26 scheduled weekend shifts). The Employer's proposal means that the WIN nurse would lose up to $17,000 per year instead of $20,000. (Keep in mind that taxes take out nearly 50% from any type of "bonus" compared to wage taxes so this proposed $750 "bonus" comes closer to a $375 take home "bonus").

2) The Employer stands by their proposal for non-WIN Nurses to reduce the current $5.00 an hour for weekend work to $4.00 per hour. Now they say that this "bonus" of one less dollar per hour will be paid when a Nurse is in overtime.

3) The Employer proposes that Float Pool nurses receive a Zero (0) % pay increase in the first year, 1% increase the next year, and 1% increase in 2012. Keep in mind that the Float Pool nurse has not seen a pay increase of any kind since April 2008. The Employer wants to continue that wage freeze for Float Pool Nurses for an additional year then add 1% in 2011 and 1% in 2012. The Hospital says they really value the Float Pool nurses so they have proposed a 2% total pay increase over a five year period. Makes one wonder how the Employer costs out "value".

4) The Employer continues to stand on their proposals for dramatic cuts in nurses' take home pay; deep slashes in all of the shift differentials; startling reductions/ changes in the PTO program of accumulation, usage, and pay-outs; and alarming reductions in Union protections for the nurses.

  • Nurses United remains extremely concerned about the safety and care of our patients. We believe fewer and fewer nurses will want to work at WHC with these drastic cuts and that nurses who had been drawn to work at WHC will leave.
  • We also know that because of the negative management culture on too many nursing units, nurses do not stay very long at WHC. Why should they work so hard to be treated so badly? Nurses will leave employment at WHC.
  • On every one of our shifts, we experience the challenges of caring for the most difficult cases and the sickest in our region - the patients that the other hospitals transfer to WHC for expert nursing care when it can not be provided elsewhere. Despite the heroic care given to patients by WHC nurses, the Employer wants to slash our take home pay and benefits. We project that even more qualified Nurses will leave WHC resulting in a more dismal and dangerous nurse staffing situation at WHC.
  • Additionally, Nurses United will soon hire a Contract Campaign Coordinator to assist with internal organizing, external outreach and pressure, and media relations. (See the home page for the job posting).

We have heard from you, the membership, and we will stand strong and united against the Employer's take backs, cuts, and threats to our job security.

Stay Strong! Stay United!! Stay Tuned!!!

June 2: A more complete truth

Recently, management has sent out several communications to Nurses with the stated goal of sharing the truth. Nurses United would like to shine a light on some of the distortions and half-truths being spread through the Hospital's correspondences with Nurses.

On May 21, Management wrote:

To encourage continued negotiations toward an agreement, the Hospital Center proposed yesterday to give each nurse an incentive if a new contract is ratified by June 30, 2010, and the union issues no formal strike notice and engages in no strike activity.

Under this incentive

  • each nurse would receive a lump-sum payment equal to one percent of their straight-time annualized earnings; and
  • eligible nurses in the 403(b) retirement savings plan would receive the employer contribution (2 to 3 percent) for 2010.

A more complete truth: This would be poor compensation for suspending our collective bargaining rights and rushing to accept management's dramatic pay cuts. The 1% bonus payment is formulated on base hourly rate, not what you have earned in the last year, and Federal and State Income Taxes will claim a big part of any such bonus. A 30-year Nurse working 36hr/wk would bring home approximately $450 after taxes.

A more complete truth: Nurses United believes that management is contractually obligated to pay the employer contribution for 2010 to eligible members' 403(b) retirement savings plan. In other words, management is graciously agreeing to give us what they are legally obligated to pay - see page 106 of the contract. The Union has filed a grievance over the employer's refusal to follow the contract. These "incentives" offer little comfort next to the huge take-backs they demand.

On May 21, Management wrote:

Other highlights of our proposals include:
-amending our original proposals on premium pay for nights, weekends and the WIN program by delaying the effective date to September 2010 to allow our nurses to better manage these changes;

A more complete truth: The Hospital is standing by their proposed significant decrease in shift differentials and the WIN program. Their delayed implementation until January, 2011 gives Nurses the same profound pay-cut. Some examples:

  • A Nurse with 2 years of experience, working a 36-hour D/N rotation would have an income decline of 4.5%, which is approximately a pay cut of $3,000 per year.
  • A Nurse with 10 years of experience working permanent night shift would have an income decline of 11.7%, which is approximately a pay cut of $10,000 per year.
  • A Nurse with 20 years of experience working WIN P would have an income decline of 26%, which is approximately a pay cut of $21,000 per year.

On May 20, Management wrote:

Nurses at WHC make more, on average, than nurses at other hospitals in the region.

A more complete truth: Management's survey does not compare total annual earnings. We have asked them at the negotiation table for total year earnings comparisons and they do not have this data. Their claim that WHC Nurses make more is not based on a full picture of Nurse's compensation and it is not legitimate. If WHC Nurses are so highly compensated, why do we have over 100 vacant nursing positions?

On May 21, Management wrote:

… continuing to pay our nurses at or near the top of the market. Currently, more than 40 percent of our full-time nurses make more than $100,000 annually, with average pay at about $96,000 per year;

A more complete truth: The "market" that the Hospital is comparing itself to includes many of the small community hospitals in the region that our Nurses drive by on their way into the District. These are the hospitals that send WHC their most critically ill patient for Level 1 care unavailable in suburban areas. Nurses at WHC are worth every penny that they are paid and the Union is opposed to cutting the take home wage of any Nurse. Why are we the only employees being asked to take a wage cut?

On May 20, Management wrote:

Washington Hospital Center provided certified audited financial statements to the Union reflecting an average margin of 1.75% over the last two years (2008 & 2009).

A more complete truth: Management has provided the negotiating team with financial information - but they also required us to sign a confidentiality agreement so that we can't talk to you, the Nurses, about all relevant financial information. We want to discuss WHC and Medstar's financial situation but there is a gag on us, preventing a fair discussion. Their secrecy is disappointing. Management has chosen to share a brief selection of the information from the last 9 months. A complete discussion would require revealing all of the data, including full income statement, full statement of cash flows, balance sheets, and full notes that are included in the audited financials. These are records that will become publically available, when the Hospital eventually files their 2009 Federal 990 forms (income tax).

The information the Hospital has released to the Nurses is highly selective, incomplete and in many ways misleading. But it's clear that the Hospital continues to be profitable, even under WHC's limited definition of "margin." And if you consider the more meaningful, relevant cash operating margin, the Hospital's profit level is much larger.

On May 21, Management wrote:

… continuing to provide our full-time RNs at least six weeks of paid time off each year and $10,000 a year in tuition assistance...

A more complete truth: The proposed PTO accumulation rates are not guaranteed in the contract and might be changed by the Hospital with no notice, just by changing a Hospital policy. The Hospital proposes a PTO accrual rate of 160 hours of PTO a year for newly hired Nurses, which equals twenty 8 hour day or thirteen 12 hours days - which equals around 4 weeks per year. This is a significant decrease in PTO accrual for most Nurses. The "use-it-or-lose-it" program stops PTO accrual once the maximum is reached. If your requested time off is denied, your PTO would disappear without a payout. And upon termination of employment, a lower payout of PTO is proposed at 50% to 80%, or less.

They have proposed the elimination of Educational Leave and that the $10,000 yearly tuition requires a full year service commitment as pay-back.

On May 21, Management wrote:

… adopting a clinical ladder and a new staffing model that emphasizes regular and ongoing collaboration between the hospital and Nurses United, creating best-in-class staffing structures from hospitals across the country.

A more complete truth: The Hospital's proposed Clinical Ladder is a system of minimal financial reward for a set of extensive demands. The Clinical Ladder neither increases staffing levels, nor increases the numbers of Nurses at the bedside for delivery of quality patient care.

On May 27, Management wrote:

We continued to work toward agreement on a number of proposals. We shared an extensive presentation of the Hospital Center's financials. The presentation shows an operating margin of less than one percent at a time that national and local health care challenges will have a significant negative impact on our finances. [Hyperlink removed] for a copy of this presentation. We also discussed the full range of efforts and initiatives the Hospital Center has undertaken to remain fiscally responsible.

A more complete truth: The financial analysis presented by management focused on a series of possible changes to the national and local health care markets. An example is the possible relocation of Howard University Hospital. Estimates for this possible move are for 2017 - years after this contract would expire! Let's deal with the reality we face today - a financially stable Hospital - and not cut our wages based on hypothetical possibilities.

On May 27, Management wrote:

Our proposals are designed to increase our investment in clinical quality and patient care. We share with the union the goal of recruiting additional nurses. We already have brought in 300 nurses in the past year, and are committed to hiring an additional 200 additional nurses in coming months. We have proposed a new staffing model that emphasizes regular and ongoing collaboration between the hospital and Nurses United. The foundation for this staffing model - a matrix that takes into account the unique resources, care needs and acuity in each nursing unit - is superior in terms on the number of clinical workers per patient than that proposed by the union and is modeled on best-in-class staffing structures from hospitals across the country.

A more complete truth: Nurses United has proposed increasing the number of FTE's (full time equivalent positions) above the Hospital's current staffing complement. So far, management has not agreed to increase the total number of Nurses to any specific target. This is especially relevant because, given their many proposed take-backs, turnover could skyrocket.

On May 27, Management wrote:

In addition we are making a substantial investment in new patient lift and transportation equipment to better protect RNs and prevent injuries associated with moving and transferring patients.

A more complete Truth: Nurses United has long proposed the Hospital create a lift team and only now, years later, are they creating a lift program. These new patient lift devices are untested at WHC. The impact on the health and safety of patients and nurses remains to be seen.

On May 27, Management wrote:

We encourage all nurses to remain engaged, get accurate information about all the contract proposals on the table, and carefully consider the many advantages, opportunity.

A more complete truth: We agree on this! Nurses should remain engaged, seek accurate information, and listen with a critical ear to information management and the Union are putting forward. Then consider for yourself the impact proposed changes could have on the patients, your career, your profession, your family, and your community.

May 25 Negotiations update: contract extension details

Yesterday’s negotiation session, May 25, 2010, was the last scheduled day of bargaining. At the end of the day, with little progress made, Federal mediator Kurt Saunders suggested a further extension. After much discussion, the Union and the employer agreed to a 25 day contract extension through June 19. Mr. Saunders has been involved with our negotiations since April 27 and although not actively mediating, he offers input and facilitation.

The additional negotiation dates are June 4, 7, 10, and 17. The negotiation team weighed the pros and cons of this extension and agreed to it based on the following: we want to bargain the best contract we can. We hear nurses concerns about a job action, including a work stoppage. We consider that decision a last resort. During the additional time of the contract extension, we want the Employer to know and understand how important these unresolved and outstanding issues are to the membership of Nurses United

An extension gives each nurse the opportunity to further prepare him or herself and their family.

Nurses United is committed to holding strong on the key areas most important to nurses – some examples are: improved staffing, PTO, shift diff, and the WIN program. As of today, the areas below are still being contested. The Union’s stance on these unresolved proposals are as follows:

  • Article 11 – Preserve the availability of 8 hour shifts and permanent day shifts; preserve specialty area mandatory overtime pay; preserve current percentage based shift diff; preserve current on call pay
  • Article 12 – Retain current seniority based holiday scheduling
  • Article 13 – Preserve current PTO system
  • Article 18 – Prevent hospital from forcing Union to go to court rather than arbitration
  • Article 26 – Prevent the hospital from changing agreed upon health insurance benefits and premiums for the duration of agreement; preserve Cash Balance plan thru January 2012; ensure hospital makes the agreed upon contributions to retirement savings program for Nurses participating in that plan now and throughout the time of the Agreement
  • Article 27 – Create rational and reasonable snow and crisis policy
  • Article 30 – Seeking measurable commitment from hospital to hire more nurses, reduce agency-nurse dependence, and prevent hospital from offering sign-on bonuses as a recruitment crutch
  • Article 33 – Ensure that WHC’s vaccination program includes reasonable exemptions and process to prevent punitive enforcement
  • Article 37 – Preserve current WIN program
  • Article 39 – Provide modest 2-3 % increase per year for all nurses to ease the sting of inflation

There will be rolling meetings on Friday and Saturday – May 28 and 29. The meetings will be held in the Private Dining Room in the cafeteria. Friday May 28: 6 am to 9 pm, 11 am to 5 pm, 6 pm to Midnight. Saturday May 29, 11 am to 3pm and 6pm to 11pm.

There will be a General Membership Meeting on Wednesday June 2, 4 pm to 6:30 pm in room G0-02. Attend to hear discussions about our internal organizing, outside communication, pressure on employer decision-makers, continued communication plans. Your Union is strongest with the maximum number of us involved, come find out how you can participate.

These negotiations have taken much longer than any of us had anticipated. We know you hope for a fair and decent contract or nurses; we do too. As this negotiation process plays out, we ask for your continued support and encouragement. We, your Bargaining Team, invite you to join us in displaying patience, commitment, determination, strength, and unity.

Stay Strong! Stay United! Stay Tuned!!!

May 25 Negotiations update: contract extended

The contract is extended through June 19, 2010. Details to follow soon.

May 23 Negotiations update: Solidarity - Unity - Solidarity - Unity - Solidarity

In a visible sign of our solidarity and unity, members of Nurses United are wearing purple wristbands. The distribution of the bracelets by our Union Leaders started late this past Saturday night and will be on-going. Please let us know if you have not yet received a Solidarity Bracelet, and we will see that someone gets one to you.

Please wear them keeping the following thoughts in mind:

1) Nurses United continues to be deeply committed to excellence in patient care and increasing the staffing numbers that meet all of our patient care needs. We know from being direct care providers that WHC is woefully understaffed which means WE NEED MORE QUALIFIED NURSES at WHC at the bedside to care for our patients.

2) To date, the Employer has not agreed to enough Registered Nurses to meet the needs of our patients. In fact, their current staffing proposal is simply a "juiced up" version from the last contract. They say, "We commit to form a Committee to talk about it and study it." Promises are not good enough. We've had promises before with NO RESULTS - in fact with staffing worsening.

3) We want the Employer to commit, in writing in the contract with actual increased numbers, to employing more RN's - NOT a Band-Aid fix of putting more Travel Nurses among us who do not know our routines and in too many cases, are unprepared to adequately care for our sickest patients.

4) The Employer's proposal to deeply cut the take home pay of nurses, plus the Employer's proposed wage freeze for the next three years, has us FAR APART at the negotiation table.

5) The Employer has said, "We are very confident with the Survey" that shows WHC nurses are paid too much. They say they are confident that their proposal to take thousands of dollars per year from the pockets of nurses will NOT AFFECT THEIR ABILITY TO RECRUIT and RETAIN nurses at WHC.
(Remember, WHC HAS the money and have said themselves that they are in good financial shape).

6) Our follow up question to that was, "Did you take a Survey of what happens when nurses have their wages, compensation, and benefits cut in such a drastic way as you are proposing?" The Employer's answer to our question was, "We have NOT done a survey on that."

7) Our concern is with these kinds of Employer "Take Backs", their ability to recruit and retain will be terribly undermined. We are concerned that the Patient will not have the care they deserve if the Employer has to find Travelers and Agency and Per Diem nurses to give patient care. THE EMPLOYER's ECONOMIC PROPOSAL PACKAGE IS AN EXPERIMENT AND THEY WANT US, THE NURSES at WHC, TO BE THE TEST RABBITS.

For these reasons and many more, we ask that you wear your Solidarity Bracelet with strength, confidence, and pride. Tomorrow is the last day of negotiations and we are FAR APART. Stay tuned for "next steps" after we complete negotiations tomorrow (Tuesday 5/25).

STAY STRONG! STAY UNITED!!

May 20 Negotiations update: Are we worth it? YES we are!

Today's negotiation session, the second to last scheduled, concluded with:

  • NO firm commitment in writing to improve staffing by hiring more nurses.
  • The Union calls for more WHC nurses instead of the hundreds of agency nurses in the Hospital. Management acknowledges these agency nurses are in the Hospital so they can be ready for a "work stoppage” – the Hospital actually started their strike preparation last fall when the only thing they knew was their own provocative agenda for rolling back our compensation and rewriting our contract. We want a fair contract, without a cut in our pay. While this kind of bargaining approach can mean lots of work for lawyers and agency strikebreakers, we know that’s not the way to improve patient care at WHC.
  • Management made NO movement on the proposed huge cuts in the take home compensation. The Hospital actually said, while they prefer nurses not to quit, if they don’t like working for less, "There are other opportunities out there for them." They cut back our compensation, give us their blessing to quit, and then say they “value” nurses!
  • NO satisfactory movement from management’s "take backs" on PTO's. Time off is sacred to nurses who leave work after each shift weary and bone tired. But, the employer wishes to take time away from you - time you have earned. Hard to believe they do not think nurses deserve the number of hours they earn to be taken for sick or vacation or time off.
  • CONTIUING Hospital demand that we change the longstanding arbitration provision of our contract to make it easier for the Hospital to resist arbitrating grievances. Under the Hospital’s proposal, any time they argue “management rights” they could force us to go to court first and have a judge decide if a grievance can be arbitrated. – adding needless cost and delay to the process of resolving contract disputes.
  • The Hospital, a non-profit, refuses to open its books to the Union. They demanded the negotiating team sign a confidentiality agreement even to receive financial info! They refuse to tell YOU, or let us tell you, how much cash they really generate and what they really do with it! They hide the 5% CASH operating margin and tout the less relevant 1.8% operating margin.
  • With only one day of negotiations left and the parties very far apart, the possibility of a job action remains. Please continue to prepare. We work very hard for our compensation and deserve every penny we earn - and then some! Do you really think your work is: WORTH LESS?
  • We are convening our Nurse Leaders on Wednesday to discuss next steps. Watch for announcements of Union meetings and voting. We will continue to advocate for you! Regardless of what management says, we know YOU ARE WORTH EVERY DOLLAR YOU EARN.

STAY TUNED! STAY STRONG!! STARY UNITED!!!

May 19 Negotiations update

In today's negotiation session, the Union advanced a proposal for the employer to commit to hire hundreds of additional nurses to improve patient care. Currently, there are hundreds of agency nurses in the hospital. These nurses cost a lot more per hour than staff nurses, so it makes good financial sense to create more positions and hire more nurses. We restated our position that the Union is opposed to reductions in nurses' pay and benefits. The employer continues to seek cut backs in nurses' pay by thousands of dollars a year.

Today, we also argued to preserve the minimum number of permanent day shifts in the hospital - which management wants to eliminate. The Union team also fought to preserve the 40% bonus for areas that have high amounts of mandatory overtime. Management wants to eliminate that also. The future of eight-hour shifts is also under threat.

The employer is holding tough and said today that we should not expect any more movement on their part on their PTO use-it-or-lose-it proposal. We, however, see this as risking our ability to take vacations - it is another cutback we are unwilling to accept.

We will continue to bargain in good faith and when we think we have the best offer we can get, we will bring it to membership for a vote. That could be next Friday and Saturday, May 28 and 29.

Here are some comments sent today by members via email:

"Please don't give in. The hospital is being ridiculous. I know they are just testing us to see if we are strong and united."

"Thanks for everything"

"During the town hall meetings, they discuss everything else except the changes in the health care benefits. The only thing they say is it will be the same as what management is getting currently. What is management getting? The wage cut and everything else is clearly unrealistic as it is described to us during these town hall meetings...Thank you for what you are doing on our behalf."

The answer to the question about the health benefit is that the proposed health plan is a slightly lower benefit plan with a much higher price tag for nurses. Management's current proposal would probably increase the health care premium cost to most nurses by 40 to 100%.

So, what can we do?

We should all have a strong and united front, a questioning attitude and challenge what they (management) are trying to convince us "to believe". They are giving half-truths and holding back information. Keep asking them for specifics: what does this proposed change cost the nurse? What does it save the hospital? Why are we being asked to take pay cuts? What about patient care, how does your proposal help improve patient care?

You can trust that we are fighting our hardest to get a fair and decent contract. At the conclusion of the negotiations, all staff nurses will have an opportunity to vote on a "new" contract. That is why it is important that everyone gets the CORRECT information at the conclusion of negotiations. We will have presentations for staff nurses to come and review and consider before they vote. We do not yet know when that will be, but we will keep you updated and let you know as soon as we have a ratification date.

May 18 Negotiations update

The countdown is on:

With the fourth to last scheduled negotiation session completed today, there are now three more scheduled sessions to go. In the Tuesday May 18 negotiation session, we discussed details of Article 11 at great length. This discussion covered issues around self-scheduling and retention of permanent and eight hour shifts for nurses currently working them.

We discussed Article 12 including the transition of Presidents' Day and Veterans Day into floating holidays and how nurses are scheduled for holiday shifts. In Article 13, we discussed the change of PTO into a use-it-or-lose-it system with lower benefits for most nurses. We briefly discussed the hospitals proposed health insurance cost sharing structure in Article 26. We touched on the proposed clinical ladder.

We spent much of our caucus time (when we have a team meeting separate from the employer) discussing an exemption from mandatory vaccination and the improvement of staffing in the hospital.

We did not come to agreement with the employer in most of these areas. We are extremely far apart on their proposed PTO system and the issue of mandatory vaccination. Please go to the below link to see the hospitals proposals.

http://www.nursesunited.org/index.cfm?view=proposals

The employer continues to demand a huge decrease in our benefits and take home wages - in the form of cuts to the shift differentials, cuts in PTOs, decrease in specialty area bonuses, and across-the-board wage freezes for the next three years.

And so we ask:

What will they do with all the money they are trying to save on our backs? It’s unclear.

Do they plan to send even more money each year to MedStar as they have been doing to buy more hospitals? This seems to be a trend.

Do they want to squirrel away more money for an uncertain future? Nurses feel management should be spending money on safer patient care so that the patient's well being is not compromised.

Many things are being said in WHC's Town Hall meetings; financial fears, “unsustainable benefits”, overpaid nurses, etc.

Here is what we know: WHC is IN GOOD FINANCIAL HEALTH -quite stable from all of the data we have reviewed – their lawyers and managers have said this themselves - "WHC is in good shape, financially". They just do not want nurses to be rewarded in the ways we have negotiated for over the years in wages and benefits. They want to take advantage of the current economic situation.

They want us to sacrifice more and more and FOR WHAT? The employer has not been able to convince your Union’s negotiation team that WHC nurses should give up hard earned compensation and benefits because the executives and management say so. All of us WILL BE AFFECTED by the final results of the contract. It is important that all of us care enough to ask the questions, check the proposals, and see for ourselves what they are proposing to take away from us.

STAY STRONG! STAY UNITED!!

May 18 Negotiations update: Links to information of interest to nurses

Now available on the NU web site: management latest proposals. See the wage and benefit cuts:

http://www.nursesunited.org/index.cfm?view=proposals

Also, here are some links of coverage of the NU picket on Tuesday May 11:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJobBpW1ezY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jKSXRjwwj4

The bargaining team is meeting with the employer on Tuesday May 18.

STAY STRONG! STAY UNITED! STAY TUNED!!

May 14 Negotiations update

There are four scheduled bargaining sessions left. Nurses United and the employer are still very far apart. Substantial pay cuts and benefits changes are still on the table. Nurses have been hearing a lot of rumors; here is some reality to clear things up.

Myth: Nurses at WHC make more than nurses at other hospitals in the region.
Fact: The employer did a survey of hospitals in the region to look at compensation. Data can be manipulated to prove a point. Is it useful to compare WHC to small suburban hospitals that send their sickest patients to us? Wages and shift differentials were looked at, not total take home pay. The results do not factor in the compensation nurses receive at other hospitals such as resource pay, preceptor pay, loyalty bonuses, bonuses for certifications, etc.

Myth: The Washington Hospital Center is struggling financially.
Fact: According to WHC's most recent public financial records, their cash-operating margin is healthy, at about 5%. At the negotiating table, they say that they are able to afford nurses' current compensation, they just don't want to. They state it is more appropriate for our compensation to be at 75% of the market. But we don't think they want the quality of patient care to be at 75% of the market.

Myth: The employer has changed its proposals on shift diff and WIN for the better.
Fact: The employer still proposes cutting the shift diffs and WIN Program dramatically. Rather than their original $3/hour for evening shift and $4/hour for nights, now it is $3.25 and $4.65. The new WIN proposals are $8.00/hour for days and $10.60/hour for nights. They are backing off their original proposals by pennies and still demand huge pay cuts. Also, the last increase in the wage scale was in April 2008. Management proposes no increase in the wage scale for three more years!

Myth: It's typical for nurses to make $185,000 a year.
Fact: There are a handful of nurses who, through working a very large number of overtime hours, earn a yearly income in this range. It is the exception rather than the norm. Most nurses earn far less then half this amount. The employer generalizes and uses the highest figures to tell us we earn too much and attempt to sway doctors and others to believe that nurses are overpaid. The fact that nurses worked so much overtime points to the staffing problems in the hospital.

Myth: Some nurses make more than $63/hour base pay.
Fact: No Nurses United member is paid more than $63/hour base pay.

Myth: It's about fairness.
Fact: For over 30 years, nurses have regularly negotiated collective bargaining agreements to improve our wages, benefits, and working conditions. These 30-plus years of effort and struggle, including two strikes and numerous instances of working without a contract, have earned us hard-won improvements. Now the employer wants to set us decades back, saying what we have is unfair to other employees. We say, bring the others up to our level, do not knock us down. Nurses at WHC have worked together to make things better and it would be unfair to take it all away, not because of any real need, but just because they want to. They are trying to take advantage of an uncertain economy to lower our compensation, expand their rights, weaken our union, and put us nurses in our "proper" place.

May 11 Informational Picket a success!

The Informational Picket which we conducted on Tuesday May 11 was great! Many of us were there to share in the chanting, the singing, and the marching.

Despite the rainy weather, Nurses United members came out after their shifts, before their shifts, and on their day off. Hundreds of NU members were joined by many supporters including over 1000 National Nurses United members from across the country!

At its peak, there were nearly 2,000 picketers as we spread out on First Street (from the road to the POB and main lobby) and Irving (almost all the way to the entrance to the ER). It was huge!!! We used our signs and voices to put our message out there and it was heard and seen by many. It was just a taste of what we can do together.

Visit Informational Picket photo page to view a few of the pictures from the event.

We are back bargaining on May 13 for five more sessions before contract expiration at midnight on May 25. STAY TUNED TO THIS WEB PAGE FOR THE LATEST NEWS!!!!!!!

Most importantly: Stay Strong and Stay United.

May 10 2010 bargaining update

Another day of negotiations and there is still more work to do. Nurses United has accepted the employer’s proposal to extend the contract until May 25. They pleaded with us to cancel the picket and we said: NO! Tuesday is the day for nurses to come out and show our unity and strength.

The informational picket is on! Tuesday May 11 from 4-7pm at the corner of Irving and 1st Streets. This is our chance to give the hospital a taste of what we can do TOGETHER! The bigger it is, the greater the impact we will have. Rain or shine. Bring your umbrella if necessary. Park at the hospital like normal.

We agreed to extend the contract for 15 days because we are committed to getting the best contract we can at the negotiation table. We are standing strong, rejecting the employer’s economic cut backs. The informational picket plays an important role in this - the more pressure we can put on them now, the more likely they are to settle this in a positive way.

New negotiation dates are May 13, 18, 19, 20, and 25. We will keep you updated on our progress. We welcome your questions and concerns. The support you show makes all the difference - we are in this together, let's stand strong.

See you on Tuesday! Nurses United

!

May 8 2010 bargaining update

In the second to last day of scheduling bargaining, the Nurses United negotiation team continues to find the employer’s proposals offensive.

Their dramatic economic take-backs remain virtually unchanged. Management tries to convince us to accept their cuts by saying: “We want to bring you in line with the market, we CAN afford to pay the current shift differentials, but DON’T WANT TO.” We think we deserve every penny we earn.

Pay cuts faced by NU members average $6,000 per year.

The employer’s oppressive management rights proposals also remain on the table. Relating to flu shots and any other medication or vaccine they deem necessary, they say: “You’ll take it if we tell you to.” For the snow or other emergencies, they say: “Come to work or else. Have a personal preparedness plan or we could fire you!”

To all this, the Union team says: NO! Nurses United has held strong against their pressure. They want to wear us down, but we are standing strong. We have compromised where we can and still they ask for more.

On staffing, we have given them a proposal that embraces their stated commitment to work with the Union to develop, track, and maintain a meaningful staffing matrix and devote the resources necessary to make it viable. Part of NU’s proposal is to create over 200 new bedside nursing positions. They say they are dedicated to improving staffing; we say: “Great! Show us you are accountable and make a contractual commitment to it!”

We will see what progress we make on Monday, our next bargaining session. And we will see YOU at the informational picket on Tuesday May 11, from 4-7pm at the corner of First and Irving Streets! Rain or Shine!

Management’s proposals are available on this web site at http://www.nursesunited.org/index.cfm?view=proposals

Letter from Joslyn N. Williams AFL-CIO to Harrison J. Rider

May 7, 2010

Harrison J. Rider III
Interim President
Washington Hospital Center
110 Irving Street NW
Washington DC 20010

President Rider:

I am writing on behalf of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, to express our deep concern about issues involved in ongoing contract negotiations between the Washington Hospital Center and Nurses United of the National Capital Region.

After weeks of negotiations, Nurses United reports that the union continues to find the hospital unwilling to remedy staffing and other concerns that staff nurses identify as critical to quality patient care. And while the Washington Hospital Center admits that it is financially healthy, it is attempting to cut nurse compensation standards that have helped make the hospital the flagship of the MedStar Health chain. Nurses with more than 15 years of experience will be the most deeply affected, risking an exodus of those highly skilled nurses with the greatest experience and expertise.

These negotiations follow the unprecedented summary firing of 18 WHC nurses who were unable to get to work during the February snowstorms. That was the hospital’s prelude to bargaining and, unfortunately, seems to have set the current tone.

Nurses United – which represents the 1600 Registered Nurses employed at the Washington Hospital Center – enjoys the full support of the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO and our nearly 200 affiliated unions, including the DC Nurses Association and SEIU 722.

We understand that there are two bargaining session remaining before the current contract expires on Monday, May 10, and we strongly urge you to move quickly reach an agreement satisfactory to the dedicated staff nurses who have made the Washington Hospital Center such a leader in the field.

Safe patient care is the top priority for the nurses, as I’m sure it is for you; we will continue to follow this issue closely and look forward to hearing soon that an agreement has been reached.

Yours,

Joslyn N. Williams, President
Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO

April 29, 2010 :Negotiation update/membership meeting/picketing

Bargaining: With four scheduled bargaining sessions remaining, Nurses United and Management remain far apart in the negotiations. In today’s bargaining, the Union sought to jump start the process by putting forward a well thought through package including proposals on staffing, Float Pool, shift differentials, WIN, PTO, Holidays, and wages. We expect that Management will respond at our next session on Monday.

Working with a staffing matrix that the Union believes will improve patient care, the Union has proposed that Management commit to increase the number of direct patient care nurses. We have not yet received a response to our staffing proposal.

The Union is standing firm on maintaining our current shift differential and WIN programs, both of which are under attack from management. They have restated their commitment to reduce the take home pay of nurses by thousands of dollars per year. Their proposed economic cut backs are still massive, the expansion of management rights they seek remains dramatic.

Membership meeting: On Wednesday May 5, from 4-6:30 pm in the True auditorium, there will be a special Membership meeting. The agenda includes a presentation from National Nurses United, a new nurses union, to review the possibility of affiliation. We will also have updates on the bargaining and preparation for:

Informational Picketing: Today we told Management that, due to the poor progress at the negotiation table, the Union would conduct Informational Picketing on Tuesday, May 11 at WHC. This peaceful, protected, and lawful action is intended to voice our concerns for quality patient care at the Hospital and show Management our strong commitment to a contract that improves staffing and preserves fair working conditions for Nurses. On public property, in the vicinity of the hospital, we will have a festive and upbeat demonstration of our solidarity. Local unions will join us; friends and family are welcome. The time and exact location will be announced soon. The event will be held rain or shine.

Putting together the Informational Picketing will require a lot of work. To have the greatest impact, the Union needs your help. Please consider attending one or both of the planning meetings outlined below:

  • Friday, April 30, 9 – 11 am at the Union’s Silver Spring office (8737 Colesville Road, suite 950, Silver Spring, MD 20910)
  • .
  • Monday, May 3, 8-10 am at the Union’s East Building office (East Building, room 5114).

Please email Lori Marlowe (LoriJMarlowe@aol.com) if you want to attend or can’t attend, but wish to get involved in another way.

In solidarity,

Nurses United Bargaining Team
Dottie, Lori, Geri, Greg, Megan, Martina and Stephen

April 22, 2010: Negotiation Update

Nurses United bargained with the employer on April 21, 2010 for the third time this week. Things are still grim - their extreme economic cut-backs have changed little, and their proposals to expand management's control over our work-life remain on the table. With the contract extension until May 10, we have three weeks left to negotiate an acceptable contract. It is our goal to bargain the best agreement we can at the negotiation table.

Questions and comments about striking are flying around the hospital - clearly it's on nurses' and managers' minds. Please refer to this page for the related Q&A and prep list. We want to reassure you - a strike is a last resort, and we can make our voices heard in many ways - but it's important to prepare. If the best they have to offer us is cutting many thousands of dollars a year in take-home pay, reducing benefits, and little commitment to improve staffing, then can we afford not to take action?

To answer some recent questions:

Q: As a new nurse, if I go on strike, what about my debt to the hospital and probationary status?

A: New nurses have the same rights and protections under federal labor law as everyone else in the union. On strike, you are still an employee. Striking is not the same as quitting your job. Debt for the residency program or as a Georgetown scholar will not become due if you go on strike. Probationary nurses at WHC are full union members and employees protected by federal law; and your probationary status does not affect your right to be free from illegal discrimination or coercion. Some managers may be confused and spreading rumors, but according to the hospital's own lawyer, your right to strike is protected.

Q: If I go on strike, will I lose my pension?

A: No! Your pension is safe. Whether you have the cash-balance or defined contribution pension plan, you do not lose your benefits or other pension rights by participating in a strike. As indicated in the answer above, while on strike, you are still an employee of the hospital and protected by federal labor laws.

Our proposals Their proposals
Staffing improvements No contractual commitment on staffing
Shift differentials for night: No change! These nurses should not have their pay reduced by up to $15,000/year Night shift differential reduced to $4/hr
Shift differentials for evening: No change! These nurses should not have their pay reduced by up to $14,000/year Evening shift differential reduced to $3/hr. No evening differential for 12-hour day-shifts
Current WIN program: No Change! 10/24 bonus for days, 14/24 bonus for nights. It works; these nurses should not have their pay cut. WIN A bonus drops to $7/hrWIN P bonus drops to $9.25/hr
Health Insurance: Maintain current premium sharing. Health Insurance costs increase for Part-Time nurses.
Weekend bonus: Continue the current $5/hr Weekend bonus = $3/hr
PTO: Preserve our current system - don't lose any of our PTO benefits. 100% value when we retire or quit. PTO "use it or lose it" program, reduced PTO accrual for senior nurses, reduction of PTO value when you quit or retire.
Modest wage increase, approx. 2% yearly: Don't cut or freeze any nurse's take home pay and keep WHC competitive in order to retain and attract the best nurses. Wage freeze for 3 years for Float Pool and over Step 25 (22% of regular nurses)
Educational leave: Keep it! Continuing education helps improve patient care and strengthen WHC's clinical nursing staff. Eliminate educational leave.

The employer claims: "No change to base rates." But look at the cut in your take home pay:

A nurse with 2 years of experience, working a 36-hour D/N rotation:
Current earnings: $62,361 Management proposal: $59,540Loss of $2,821 = 4.5% decline
A nurse with 5 years of experience working 36-hour permanent day shift:
Current earnings: $63,190 Management proposal: $59,772Loss of $3,418 = 5.4% decline
A nurse with 7 years of experience working WIN A:
Current earnings: $63,587 Management proposal: $51,705Loss of $11,882 = 18.7% decline
A nurse with 10 years of experience working permanent night shift:
Current earnings: $79,911 Management proposal: $71,417Loss of $9,741 = 10.6% decline
A nurse with 15 years of experience WHC working WIN A:
Current earnings: $66,553 Management proposal: $55,786Loss of $10,767 = 16.2% decline

April 20, 2010: Contract Extension

On April 19, 2010, Nurses United Negotiating Team accepted the employer’s proposal to extend the contract up to and including May 10, 2010. This decision followed much discussion with members. During this extension, the existing Ground Rules between the parties will remain in place. The parties agreed to six additional negotiation sessions – April 27 and 28, May 3, 6, 7, and 10, 2010. This means that the current contract (CBA) is in effect.

We all know that the number of temporary and agency nurses has increased dramatically in recent days/weeks at WHC. These are strangers in our facility and in too many instances have questionable skill sets for the acuity and types of patients at WHC. We know that not every nurse is capable of caring for our acutely ill patients. WHC is a tertiary care hospital where the sickest and most acutely ill from the region are sent for care.

You may be asked to “check off” the skills of these Travel Nurses unfamiliar with our work setting and patient population. If a manager insists that you check off the skills of an individual and in your professional judgment you do not believe they have achieved this competency - DO NOT CHECK IT OFF! Refer this to your immediate supervisor. If unresolved at that level, proceed to the next management level up to and including WHC’s CNO. If you are mandated by a supervisor to sign a skills list and in your professional judgment you do not feel you can ethically do that but are told you must, then sign and add to your signature: SIGNED UNDER DURESS! Article 30.7, page 81 of the CBA, states “Nurses shall not be held responsible for work performed inadequately or incorrectly by temporary nurses”.

We should use the occurrence/incident report process to document errors and “near misses” related to the nursing practice of the Travelers at WHC. You can also certainly complete and submit an Assignment Despite Objection (ADO) form regarding these kinds of unsafe matters.

We will continue to be guided by your priorities in our bargaining with management. We pledge to stand strong with you, in solidarity.

FYI: We are planning more Walking Rounds onto your Units this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday( 4/22, 23 and 24). We are also going to arrange for more Rolling Meetings so you can receive Negotiation updates from the team.

In Unity,

Dottie, Stephen, Lori, Greg, Geri, Martina, Megan, Kathy, and Randy

April 19, 2010: A note from the NU Bargaining Team

This past Friday and Saturday, Nurses United conducted six Rolling Membership Meetings covering times from 3AM to 10PM on both of the days. Hundreds of you attended to hear updates on the bargaining. You are energized and fired up, ready to do what is needed to get a good contract. We appreciate your solidarity! It is vital to our success!

Management's proposals continue to call for massive cuts in pay and benefits for working nurses at WHC. Management's claim is that no one's base pay will be reduced. While that is true, they disguise the fact that their proposed cuts in Shift Differentials, WIN, Holidays, Weekend Bonuses, OT Bonuses, On-Call Pay, PTO's, etc, will take many thousands of dollars of take home pay out of the pockets of hard working nurses in our Union at WHC

We are fortunate to work for an Employer that is in good financial shape! The good standing, financially, that WHC finds itself in today is due in very large part to the hard work of the bedside nurses. Management has acknowledged, at the bargaining table, that they can continue to pay the current level of pay and benefits to WHC nurses; however, they continue to seek big cuts in pay and benefits from us. Why?

As justification for massive cuts in pay and benefits, management continues to point to how other hospitals pay the nurses and say that we at WHC are over paid. We regret that nurses at other hospitals are not paid as well as we are in some areas; however, we are not willing to cut our pay and benefits to match the lesser pay and benefits of nurses working at the many hospitals that WHC nurses drive past in order to get to work at WHC which is located in the middle of the city of D.C.

Our compensation and benefits works just fine; we should keep it. After all, we work at the flagship hospital of MedStar receiving and caring for the sickest patients in our region. We have the highest skilled nurses in the region and WHC is a tertiary care facility with the most critical patients coming into our care. Ask any police officer or fire fighter in the DC region. If they are injured they are adamant about being taken to WHC for care because they know the nurses at WHC are the best!

Frankly, what management should be focused on is the center of our proposals: the patient. We all know that the patients at WHC are too often not getting the care that they need and deserve. We want more nurses -more direct patient care nurses - EMPLOYED at the hospital so the patients can get good, safe, and reliable care.

At the end of contract talks this past Friday, WHC had passed a proposal across the table that asks for the Float Pool nurses to be made to work more required shifts. Also, the Employer proposed an extension to the deadline of the contract.

If our Negotiation Team should decide to agree to their proposal to extend the talks, we encourage you to continue doing what you have been doing and that we have been advising you in preparation:

  1. Fill your prescriptions
  2. Put money aside in a savings account
  3. Pay your bills
  4. Sign up and work OT
  5. Go to Occupational Health to get your records - you will need that if you already do not have a position with an Agency
  6. Renew your DC license now!
  7. Apply for a Maryland and/or Virginia RN License if you have not already done so
  8. Apply for work at settings outside of WHC.

These are the many things you can do to be prepared. Meanwhile we will continue to fight for the pay and benefits you deserve since we want to attract the best of nurses and retain the excellent nurses already working at WHC so patients get the best possible care. We will use our voices to echo your voices regarding the issues you have told us are most important to you. We will also keep you updated with the latest news from the bargaining table. Please continue to send us your specific questions via email to nursesunitedorg@aol.com We pledge to answer your questions in a timely fashion.

In Unity,
Dottie,Stephen, Lori, Megan, Geri, Greg, Martina, Kathy, and Randy

April 14, 2010- Rolling meetings this week! Action prep info coming your way!

The contract expires in just over 10 days and the employer is still out to take back, take back, take back. We are pleased to be discussing staffing and safety, but it is not enough: nurses want better staffing AND no take-backs.

The employer’s pay cutting proposals have not changed since March 22: they seek to reduce differentials to $3/hour for evenings (and eliminate them for 12 hour day shifts) and $4/hour for nights, eliminate the WIN bonus, freeze wages for everyone higher than step 25, reduce on-call pay, halt the 40% bonus and other pay-reducing concepts. Bottom line: the take home pay of nurses would go down by thousands of dollars per year. In some instances, nurses would have pay cuts of over $20,000 per year.

The Nurses United bargaining team is standing strong against pay cuts for any nurse. We want to improve patient care and staffing, not agree to have our pay reduced.

At the bargaining table the employer has not claimed that they do not have enough money to continue the current differential and wage scales. In fact the data we have seen shows that they are doing just fine financially. The only reason they give for the pay reductions they are seeking is that other hospitals’ do not have the same differentials and wage scale.

The employer also seeks to control many other aspects of our working conditions and benefits. Their proposals would make it easier for them to fire nurses for slight infractions, give them the right to eliminate health insurance and PTO at their will, force everyone to rotate shifts, increase the work requirement of Float Pool nurses, reduce holidays, etc.

The Nurses United bargaining team is resisting these assaults on our working lives. We are focused on getting more direct care nurses hired to work in the hospital so that patients can get better care.

On Tuesday April 13 Nurses United shop stewards and leaders met to discuss strategy and prepare our options. We are ready to do what it takes to get a good contract.

The Union and the employer meet again in bargaining on Thursday April 15, Friday April 16, Monday April 19, Tuesday April 20, and Wednesday April 21.

Come to rolling meetings on Friday April 16 and Saturday April 17 to learn more. Meeting times each day are 3am-6am, 12noon-3pm, and 5pm-10pm. All meetings will be held in room 5B3 on the fifth floor. Come and get a beautiful Nurses United ID badge holder - they are purple and white with a clip and retractable reel. These are an excellent way to show solidarity and support for each other and for our Union.

Look out for Action Information packets coming your way. NU is hand delivering and mailing out information to help members understand and get ready for the possibility of a job action. Included in the packet is an article about the 2000 strike, a Q & A, and a preparedness sheet designed to help members understand and get ready for the possibility of a job action. You can access this information on our home page and on this page under the April 13 update.

April 13, 2010- Action Information

Below are links to an article about the 2000 strike, a Q & A, and a preparedness sheet that are designed to help members understand and get ready for the possibility of a job action:

April 6, 2010

Nurses United negotiated with the employer on Monday, April 5, 2010.

We had useful discussions about staffing improvements and the employer stated their willingness to continue the discussions.

The employer gave us counter proposals in a continued efforts to change the progressive discipline structure, identify areas of gross misconduct leading to discharge, exercise control over what is posted on, and decrease the number of, Union bulletin boards, leaves of absence, an exit interview process, position posting, and enforce that nurses have a personal preparedness plan. We are considering their counter proposals and preparing proposals of our own.

We agreed to a number of additional hours at the negotiating table in coming weeks in the hope of a timely conclusion to the bargaining and reviewed what elements of the Unionâ?Ts information requests Nurses United has not yet received.

Our team remains focused on staffing improvements, improving patient care, and increasing the number of direct care nurses in the Hospital. We are confident.

Nurses United will caucus Tuesday, April 6th and return to the negotiation table on Wednesday, April 7th.

Please continue to check the website for updates, contact us with any questions, and keep up the support for the Union!

April 3, 2010

Bargaining Update

On April 1, the Nurses United and Management bargaining teams met for the third session. Much of the negotiations focused on the Union's proposals around Staffing Improvements and Safety/Lift Assistance. In response to previous Union proposals for staffing ratios and targeted hiring, management shared an example of a staffing matrix, by nursing unit, with a formula for numbers of staff per patient, per shift. The Union looks forward to further discussion of this topic in coming weeks.

In the meantime, we may be coming to members on your nursing units with negotiation and organizing action updates. Our hope is to continue to gather information from you to help fine-tune our staffing proposal and development of a staffing matrix.

In other matters, the Union agreed with the Employer in 13 areas. These proposed tentative agreements (TA's) would streamline existing language and make reading of the contract clearer, without changing substance.

In response to Management’s proposals that will reduce the take home pay of nurses, the Union explained why it wants to maintain existing CBA language in places where the employer wants to make cut backs.

Thanks to the valubale input from Nurses United membership, the Union has been able to bring accurate information to the negotiation table and continues to bargain in good faith.

The next bargaining session is Monday April 5, 2010. We caucused today to prepare for that meeting.

We thought you would also like to know that the Labor Community, at large, has reached out to us in a variety of ways and from around the country. We are energized by their passion and understanding that we must be united in these efforts to preserve our wages, hours of work, and working conditions. Nurses United leaders recently attended the D.C. Metro Labor Council and will do so again at their next scheduled session on April 19, 2010. If you would like to get more involved in Community and Labor outreach, let us know.

Until our next update, stand strong and stand united.

In Unity,
Stephen, Dottie, Lori, Geri, Martina, Greg, and Megan

March 25, 2010

NURSES TO EMPLOYER:

Where is your focus on improving patient care?
We can't find it anywhere in your proposals!

Many of us received a memo from Harry Rider this week giving Management's "spin" on their opening set of contract proposals. According to Mr. Rider, the Hospital truly values nurses, and they want to work with us to ensure high quality patient care and make the Hospital the best place in this area to practice nursing.

Nice words. But Management's actions tell the real story. They ignored our well thought-out proposals to implement nurse/patient ratios, increase staffing, improve patient care, and retain the dedicated nursing professionals who work at the Hospital. Instead, they have focused on slashing our wages and benefits.

TIME FOR A PULSE CHECK!

Harry Rider wrote: "No nurse will see a reduction in his or her base hourly rate." The reality is that the employer has proposed cutting the pay of more than 90% of the nurses. A few examples:

  • Reduction in shift differential ($3.00 evenings, $4.00 nights)
  • Deletion of WIN bonus
  • No guarantee of working your full 20 or 36 or 40 hours a week
  • No specialty area mandatory overtime bonus

A few examples of how their proposed wage reductions would affect nurses:

A nurse with 2 years of experience, working a 36-hour D/N rotation:
Current earnings: $62,361
Management proposal: $59,540
Loss of $2,821 = 4.5% decline

A nurse with 5 years of experience working 36-hour permanent day shift:
Current earnings: $63,190
Management proposal: $59,772
Loss of $3,418 = 5.4% decline

A nurse with 10 years of experience working permanent night shift:
Current earnings: $83,031
Management proposal: $73,288
Loss of $9,741 = 11.7% decline

A nurse with 20 years at WHC working WIN P:
Current earnings: $81,253
Management proposal: $60,053
Loss of $21,200 = 26% decline

Harry told us that he wants to "strengthen nursing" and "attract and retain highly qualified nurses." Good luck! The truth is that even more dedicated nurses would leave the Hospital if Management's proposals went into effect - and what a poor recipe for attracting and retaining new nurses:

  • No guarantee of eight-hour shifts
  • No more permanent day, evening, or night shifts
  • Deletion of paid education leave
  • Unused PTO over annual maximum would disappear
  • Greatly diminish Nurses' voice and role in work life and working conditions
  • Decrease current benefit programs
  • No guarantees or contract protections of health and retirement benefits

There's more where that came from. Back in February, Harry Rider justified arbitrarily and summarily firing longtime nurses with excellent records, for not showing enough "commitment" when they were unable to get to work during the record snowstorms. Now, Management's proposals would make this dictatorial approach the new standard:

  • Instead of focusing on counseling and progressive discipline, Management would have the right to immediately terminate nurses for a laundry list of first-time offenses.
  • Even in cases of progressive discipline, the third step would now be automatic termination.

Harry says that the Hospital wants to "work collaboratively" with us to "ensure the best nursing care available." But, in reality, the Hospital's contract proposals would do just the opposite:

  • As a general matter, their theme is to eliminate or reduce the role of joint consensus and Nurses' input, and, instead, expand Management's unilateral control wherever possible, paving the way for them to do whatever they want, whenever they choose, regardless of nurses' views - whether it's mandating flu shots or other unspecified vaccinations, dictating the uniform you wear, deciding unilaterally whether your "appearance" is acceptable, or making other changes.
  • Management also wants to reduce nurses' unity, connection and strong mutual support in the workplace by restricting Nurses United communications - including eliminating our unit bulletin boards and requiring Management approval before we can post anything on our remaining Union boards.
  • At the same time, the Hospital wants to weaken the grievance and arbitration procedure - our fundamental mechanism for ensuring fairness and holding Management accountable to honor the contract.

And these are just a few highlights.

We don't mean to pick on Harry Rider - he's the interim President, presumably taking orders from his bosses. He'll be gone soon, but we will still have to live with the contract he is promoting. So, whether he's truly confused, or deliberately misleading us, we must ask: How do their proposals improve patient care or promote nursing? Clearly, they DO NOT!

Remember this when you see Management's bulletins and email messages saying that they want WHC to be the leader in patient care and a great place for nurses to work. The contract proposals rolled out by the Hospital this week are just not consistent with these goals.

A final note: when negotiations open, it's not unusual for the union and the employer to start off far apart. But it is not typical for an employer, in a longstanding, mature collective bargaining relationship, to put half the contract on the chopping block and rewrite the rest of it from A to Z. If Management is truly committed to reaching a fair contract that ensures the best patient care available and makes WHC the best place for nurses to work, they would not set out to undo the result of 32 years of nurses' struggle to improve patient care and working conditions at our Hospital.

March 23, 2010

Hospital's Message to Nurses: "Our House, Our Rules!"

Management states that nurses are not part of team and we are guests in their house

On Friday Nurses United gave a strong package of patient centered and staffing focused proposals. We want WHC to be the area hospital where nurses want to work and that the community trusts.

Today, Monday March 22, 2010, Nurses United received the employer's proposals.

With no apparent attention to patient care or safe staffing, the Hospital responded with an overhaul and redesign of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, proposing changes to over half the Articles, treating our CBA as if it were a blank slate. Disregarding the progress Nurses have earned over the last 30 years. They failed to address Nurses United's quality-improving proposals and are attempting to devalue and disrespect Professional Nurses with the mantra of "Our House, Our Rules."

The employer's many proposals can be loosely grouped into two categories: more control over nurse's working and personal lives and wage-related reductions. The stacks of paper they handed us will take us some time to carefully read, but from an initial look it is clear they have attacked many contract provisions we hold dear.

The proposals they presented today would significantly decrease the take home paycheck of almost every working nurse at WHC.

Management ignored our proposals to increase staffing and improve the quality of patient care in the hospital, and responded by trying to renegotiate half the contract. Their proposals send the message that they don't value our voices and that we should play no role in any level of decision-making in the hospital.

We are considering our next steps and ask that you stay tuned as we progress through this. To get the contract we want, we need to be in this together. We commit to keeping you informed and receiving your feedback.

We are strong together! In solidarity, Your negotiating team

March 19, 2010

Report to Membership from Day 1 of Negotiations:

Today, Friday March 19, 2010, the Nurses United bargaining team presented our initial proposals package to the employer. We are proud of the proposals, and we thank you - the membership - for your guidance in assisting us in creating the package through your Survey participation, E-mails, and your Voices at our membership and rolling meetings. As we presented today, we sensed your power and unity in the room with us.

The proposals are focused on improvements in patient care, with a major emphasis on an increase in staffing. We have targeted proposals to have more nurses working each shift, to hire more nurses, to increase the retention of nurses through improved working conditions, and to give nurses a stronger voice at every level of the organization, from the nursing unit up to the highest level of decision making.

Some specifics from our proposal package:

  • Article 30 "Nursing and Patient Care": Unit specific staffing ratios (maximum number of patients that can be assigned to a nurse).
  • Hiring guidelines: Language calling for a certain number of nurses per bed on a unit, depending upon the type of unit, including the consideration of acuity levels.
  • Article 30, "Position Posting": The speeding up of the filling of positions, providing for one method - seniority - to determine who gets a position, and a definitive response time for position applications.
  • Incentives to encourage more flexible use of staffing when a short term need is identified.
  • Innovative ways to have nurses voices heard: from the grassroots to the highest decision levels in the organization.
  • Wage increases
  • Three year agreement
  • Lift assistance
  • Improved snow emergency language.
  • Other improvements

After the Employer caucused to review our proposals, they came back into the room and stated that they, too, will bargain in the interest of improvements in patient care. We hope that they will honor that commitment and look forward to receiving their proposals on Monday, March 22.

We will keep you updated as negotiations progress through continued emails, rolling meetings, and in person as we visit you on your units. Please continue to give us feedback. We value your thoughts and honor your ongoing commitment to improved patient care.

March 18, 2010

Negotiations start Friday 3/19/2010: WE ARE READY

Your negotiation team has been busy preparing for contract negotiations. Guided by your input from the survey, rolling meetings, and a great many conversations, the team has prepared proposals that embody the priorities of nurses at WHC. Priorities ranked in this order: staffing, working conditions, no take backs, wages, benefits. The changes nurses have asked for would mean real improvements in patient care.

On Friday March 19, 2010 Nurses United will present contract proposals to the employer. We are confident in the substance of these proposals and we are confident in the strength of Nurses United. On Monday March 22, 2010 the employer is scheduled to present their proposals. We await the employer’s full response to our information request. NU and the employer have agreed to the goal of completing negotiations by April 21, 2010.

The negotiation team will keep you updated on the progress of negotiations through regular emails and bulletins and upcoming rolling meetings on March 26 & 27 and April 16 &17. See the meetings page for rolling meeting times. Messages will also be communicated through the massive phone tree that was created.

Please continue to express your concerns, give us feedback and ask questions. We look forward to seeing you at the rolling meetings, on our walking rounds, and we welcome your emails.

For your information, upcoming NU team meeting dates include: Tuesday March 23, Thursday March 25, Friday April 2, Tuesday April 6, Monday April 12, Wednesday April 14, and Tuesday April 20.

Negotiation dates between the NU team and employer: Friday March 19, Monday March 22, Thursday April 1, Monday April 5, Wednesday April 7, Thursday April 15, Friday April 16, Monday April 19, and Wednesday April 21.

As a negotiation team, we are proud of the dedicated and hard working nurses we represent. We are committed to getting the contract that nurses have asked for – we will bargain hard and do our best at the negotiation table. Our strength comes from you - the power of Nurses United is in all our hands. We stand together and that is what makes us strong.

In solidarity, your negotiation team.

January 14, 2010

Staff Nurse Facilitators NU Negotiations 2010

Three NU Staff Nurses have agreed to assist our Union with the work of reaching out to our membership during 2010 negotiations. They will help facilitate the Union's 16/160/1600 communication system through data base work as well as supporting the work of the 2010 Negotiation Communication, Organization, Administrative/Executive, Research, and Action committees of our NU Staff Nurse Membership. They will also be closely tracking negotiations to make sure membership is well informed and updated on a regular basis from now through the completion of 2010 negotiations. There will also be a community outreach component to their support of the Union. If you need to contact them with updates, questions, ideas, communication, feedback, etc. they can be reached through e-mail at:

Lori Marlowe (4D) - lorijmarlowe@aol.com
Megan Caine (Float Pool) - megancaine@yahoo.com
Beth Landry (PACU) - swissarmygirl@gmail.com

You are also still welcome to use the Nurses United e-mail address to communicate with us at NursesUnitedOrg@aol.com

Your UNION Rights:

"A nurse called by the Hospital to attend a disciplinary meeting or investigatory meeting which could lead to discipline shall have the right to Union representation, which includes the right to interrupt a meeting that has already commenced to request Union representation. It shall be the nurse's responsibility to inform the Hospital that she/he wishes to have such representation".
- Refer to Contract ARTICLE 3.2 c for complete language about this important Union right.