“Why is management so out of touch with the frontline nurse’s interests?” #


St. Joseph’s manage­ment asked a very good question in its June 28 SJMC RN Update.” Too bad they didn’t really answer the question. Manage­ment is out of touch because they have failed to take our staffing concerns seriously. They are out of touch because they failed to address those concerns in our contract.

We are completely committed to reaching a contract agree­ment that addresses those serious staffing concerns. When we voted down previous contract agree­ments, we showed manage­ment that we have power and we’re ready to use it to get something better. That’s what we’re fighting for.

We’re not consid­ering a strike lightly. It’s not our first option. But we’ll strike if we have to. Here’s what you can do to help your bargaining team get a meaningful, respectful contract:

  • Complete our Patient Safety Survey. We need the strongest possible data and messages to clearly artic­u­late what’s at stake for patient safety and why nurses are preparing to take the bold action of a strike. Add your voice!
  • Be prepared if we have to strike.
    • Sign the petition saying you’ll strike if you have to.
      WSNA nurse members assigned to every unit at the hospital have been trained as a Rapid Response Organizers and have the strike commit­ment petition ready for you to sign. You can also contact your WSNA Nurse Repre­sen­ta­tive using the contact infor­ma­tion listed at the bottom of this message.
    • Sign up for a strike committee.
      Print the form, fill it out, take a photo of it and email it to tbarnes@wsna.org.
    • Prepare finan­cially.

Here are our answers to SJMC’s questions.

1. What is SJMC doing about staffing challenges at our hospital?
Not enough. Manage­ment acknowl­edges that high patient volumes” have become the new normal.” They acknowl­edge that Our nurses have demon­strated tremen­dous pride and rever­ence in deliv­ering high-quality care to patients over these months under diffi­cult circum­stances.” Now they have to do something about it.

We know that charge nurses are regularly pulled to take patient loads; we know that we are taking more patients to cover surges. This is not OK. We are demanding that St. Joseph commit to maintain staffing levels on each unit that provide for safe patient care and for the health and safety of nurses, and we demand substan­tive staffing reforms written into our contract. St. Joseph’s manage­ment has had ample oppor­tu­nity to address staffing over the past 10 months of bargaining and has failed to do so.

Instead of spending money to hire replace­ment workers in the event of a strike, St. Joseph’s should be spending money to address the very real staffing concerns of us nurses.

2. How did we get into our present situa­tion?
Manage­ment acknowl­edges that they did not accurately predict the patient volume and were not adequately prepared with staffing support.” But what about their decision to elimi­nate health unit coordi­na­tors and reduce CNA and care assis­tant positions? They say patient volumes started going up in winter 2017 – a year and a half ago! And still, we are taking on too much to feel confi­dent we’re meeting all of our patients needs on every shift. This has to stop. We need substan­tive staffing reforms in our contract.

3. Why is manage­ment so out of touch with the front­line nurse’s inter­ests?
Because they’re not listening to us. Only now, with the threat of a strike looming, are they paying atten­tion to our very real concerns.

4. Is there a chance the parties will go back to the table before the strike?
Yes. We had hoped to go back to the bargaining table this week and were ready to do so. Unfor­tu­nately, due to manage­ment and mediator sched­uling conflicts, our next mediated bargaining date is July 12.

We will be adding members to our WSNA bargaining team to fill seats that are empty due to members leaving St. Joseph’s and to bring the voices of front­line nurses across the hospital to the table. Tomorrow, our team is prepping to go back to the table and fight for what nurses need.

We hope St. Joe’s manage­ment will come back to the table with greater respect for the profes­sion­alism, hard work, sacri­fice and loyalty we demon­strate every day.

5. Is it ok to ask my manager questions about the manage­ment proposals?
They actually answered this one pretty well: Manage­ment is prohib­ited from asking you directly about union activ­i­ties or plans. There are strict laws governing manage­ment behav­iors during open contract negoti­a­tions. For example, manage­ment may not make promises or suggest new proposals to employees as such activity consti­tutes direct dealing.”

You can initiate a conver­sa­tion with your managers if you wish to do so. Manage­ment cannot. If they do, it consti­tutes an Unfair Labor Practice. If a manager initi­ates a conver­sa­tion about contract negoti­a­tion or seeks your input on issues at the table, we need to hear from you. If you have been threat­ened or retal­i­ated against for union activ­i­ties, including filing a griev­ance or submit­ting a Staffing Complaint/​ADO form, we need to hear from you. Fill out the Unfair Labor Practice Report Form.

We recom­mend that you direct your questions to a bargaining team member or a Rapid Response Organizer to get the most accurate answers.

6. Doesn’t SJMC care about nurses? We have high turnover and can’t retain people because of working condi­tions.
They say SJMC deeply cares.” We say show it” by coming to the bargaining table prepared to address our serious staffing concerns.

They say, RN turnover is not going up.” We say, RN turnover at SJMC is unaccept­ably high. Take a look at the data in our blog post.

7. A union repre­sen­ta­tive came to my unit today and was taking names of people who will strike and who will not strike. Am I required to give them infor­ma­tion?
We are actively assessing our readi­ness to strike by asking nurses to sign a form saying they’ll strike if they have to. This is a protected union activity, and St. Joseph’s manage­ment knows it. We recog­nize that the decision to go out on strike is a personal one. By honestly answering questions about your personal readi­ness, you are helping us know where we are as a group.

8. I feel like I am being harassed about union matters. What can I do?
There is a lot of conver­sa­tion happening right now given where we are with bargaining and strike prepa­ra­tion. But we don’t want anyone to feel harassed.” Talk to us.

9. Does manage­ment have a plan to staff and deliver care during a strike? What will happen to my patients?
Make no mistake about it — if we go on strike it will be FOR our patients. Our staffing and patient safety concerns are real. We need St. Joseph’s manage­ment to address them, for the sake of our patients.

If a strike is called, we will give St. Joseph’s the required 10-day notice so that admin­is­tra­tion can plan for patient care. In addition, WSNA’s strike prepa­ra­tion includes estab­lishing an RN Emergency Standby Team Committee that would solicit volun­teers to work in the case of an emergency. You can sign up for this and other strike commit­tees by submit­ting this form.

The ANA Nursing Code of Ethics states that the nurse, through individual and collec­tive effort, estab­lishes, maintains, and improves the ethical environ­ment of the work setting and condi­tions of employ­ment that are conducive to safe, quality health care.” By demanding that St. Joseph Medical Center address nursing staffing and patient safety issues, we are doing nothing less than making an ethical stand on behalf of the patients we serve.

We need a contract that addresses our staffing problems and demon­strates respect for our profes­sion­alism and dedica­tion. We don’t want to go on strike, but we will strike if we have to.

Questions? Contact WSNA Nurse Repre­sen­ta­tive Hanna Welander at hwelander@wsna.org or by calling 206 – 575-7979, ext. 3035.