Striking Temple University nurses say: ‘We won’t back down!’
Published Mar 31, 2010 6:24 PM
March 31 — Over 1,500 members of Pennsylvania Association of
Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals hit the bricks today after six months of
negotiations with Temple University Hospital failed to reach a contract. Two
days prior PASNAP members voted 980 to 50 to strike.
Photo: Kelly Valdez
Picket lines were set up as workers left their night — shift jobs at 7
a.m. and at noon in a militant show of force. Over a thousand strong,
striking workers and their supporters rallied and partially blocked Broad
Street near the hospital. Following the rally, workers with signs reading
“Put patients before profits” marched around the hospital building,
nearly surrounding it as Tom Petty’s “I won’t back
down” blared from the rally sound system.
The rally was an impressive demonstration of worker solidarity from a workforce
with a clear majority of Black, Latina and other immigrant women. The union
represents 1,000 nurses and 500 professional and technical workers at a
hospital that serves north Philadelphia’s largely Black, Latino/a, and
Asian immigrant communities.
Management’s last offer would double health care premiums for nurses;
triple them for the professional staff; freeze wages for year one of the
contract; and reduce hard — won wage differentials for undesirable shifts
and 24 — hour on — call rates. Their final offer gave the hospital
administration the right to change or eliminate health plans at any time and to
hike premiums annually.
The hospital’s attempt to impose its “non —
disparagement” clause — basically a gag — clause
that would prohibit employees from publicly criticizing or making any statement
that management considered “derogatory of Temple” —
was also a key issue.
The hospital maintains that there is never a need to go public to protect
patient safety, but PASNAP President Maureen May noted that the gag clause was
a key issue because it would allow management to fire workers who publicly
criticize the hospital. “I’m a patient advocate,” May said.
“I want to be able to speak out for my patients.”
The union supports staffing ratio legislation pending in the Pennsylvania
legislature and anticipates that its members may need to testify at public
hearings to give first — hand accounts of unsafe situations.
The hospital also illegally eliminated a long — standing dependent
tuition benefit last year and refuses to reinstate it in any future agreement,
even after the PA Labor Relations Board ruled in the union’s favor in
Exorbitant salaries for CEOs, scabs
Another key issue in the strike is the hospital’s attempt to curb the
power of the union by ending fair share or agency fee payments, effectively
destroying the closed shop. Management is also pushing for a three — year
contract for nurses and a four — year agreement for the
technical/professional staff to weaken the union. One worker at the rally
commented that “every union in this hospital should be out here”
noting their cause would have been strengthened if all the other unions
representing workers at the hospital had asked their members not to cross the
Although two of Temple University Hospital’s CEOs, Sandra L. Gomberg and
Edmond F. Notebaert, have a combined income of over $4 million, the
administration has repeatedly cited the economic downturn to justify the
concessions they are demanding from the workers.
Jim McCarthur, a member of the PASNAP bargaining committee and a nurse for 16
years, pointed out that the economic downturn didn’t stop the hospital
from hiring 800 scabs at salaries of up to $10,000 per week and paying for
their transportation and accommodations. An ad to lure strike —
breaking workers read: “It is a safe, fun and a great professional
“In just two weeks the money management is paying to break this strike
would be enough to settle the cost of a four — year contract,”
McCarthur told the crowd.
Support for the striking nurses was clearly evident from the patients who waved
from windows to ambulance drivers who honked their horns in solidarity. A
vending cart near the hospital bore a sign that read “We support the
Paul Prescott, representing Temple University Student Labor Action Project,
said that his group had gathered over 1,300 signatures in support of the nurses
and delivered them to Temple University president Ann Weaver Hart. A
popular chant at the rally was “Ann Hart, you can’t hide. We
can see your greedy side!” Should the strike continue, PASNAP has
called for a rally outside Hart’s home in Rittenhouse Square.
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