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    News and Updates


December 8, 2004

Nurses at St. John

Over 1,500 registered nurses at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center are set to strike on December 15 after giving their hospital the required 10-day notice, according to information released to the public at UFCW Local 655’s press conference on Sunday.  Union President Jim Dougherty said that after six months of negotiations, the hospital has worked hard to frustrate nurses to the point of forcing them to take this drastic action.

An RN speaks out against St.  John’s Mercy Medical Center at the press conference.

“The nurses at St. John’s are willing to go back to the bargaining table immediately to resolve this before December 15,” Dougherty said, “but the hospital has to be willing to enter into realistic negotiations.”  He also remarked that the hospital’s last proposal was “worse than the one rejected by the nurses by a 95 percent margin” on November 10.

The main issues involved in negotiations are centered on the nurses having a voice in the quality of care available to their patients.  For example, the hospital wants to eliminate the Professional Nurse Practice Committee, which meets monthly to discuss patient care issues, safety concerns, staffing, equipment and RN educational needs.  As an alternative proposal to the elimination, the hospital wants to control the entire committee by appointing all its members.  Currently, the union selects eight RNs to the committee while the hospital selects eight of its own members.

“(The hospital) wants to prevent independent voices from being on the committee.  Our patients deserve to have union nurses on this committee, nurses willing to stand up for their patients,” said Kathy Schleef, an RN who has worked at St. John’s for 23 years.

Dougherty said the hospital is intentionally provoking this confrontation because they don’t belive the RNs will strike.  “This is a serious miscalculation on their part.  While no one wants this strike, the RNs feel strongly that they must take a stand that allows them to be an active voice for their patients.”

Another concern of the RNs is that keeping qualified nurses at St. John’s is a crucial patient care issue.  Colleen Schmitz, a 30-year veteran at St. John’s, said the hospital’s economic and other proposals could force “a majority exodus of qualified nurses.”

Other proposals the hospital made:

• The hospital would give a three percent raise to some nurses, while others would get nothing for three years.  An alternative proposal is a two percent raise with the possibility of a four percent “merit” raise controlled entirely by the hospital.

• The hospital would have the freedom to eliminate or modify health and welfare benefits–and other benefits–as they saw fit.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service was involved in negotiations, but broke off December 1 after the hospital offered a package worse than the one rejected in November.  The contract has been extended since it expired on October 22, though negotiations have been going on since early July.

“We’re trying to resolve this without a strike, and have been since July 8 when talks first started,” Dougherty added.  “The hospital could avoid this strike, if they want to.  We’ll see how much they want to on December 15.”


December 6, 2004

St. John’s Nurses Standing Up To Employer Attack on Patient Care Standards

Negotiations Between Registered Nurses and Hospital Break Off

Registered Nurses Prepare to Mobilize Supporters in St. Louis and
Throughout the Region

More than 1,700 registered nurses at St. John’s in St. Louis, Mo. are preparing for the fight of their lives – at a time when they would rather be helping patients fight for theirs.  Negotiations between nurses and St. John’s administrators broke off today as hospital administration continues their attack on professional nursing standards.   RNs are preparing to mobilize support from local unions in St. Louis and throughout the region whose members spend millions of health care dollars at St. John’s and other Sisters of Mercy Health System facilities.

The St. John’s RNs organized for a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 655 in 1999 so that caregivers would have a say over important patient care issues.  Key to nurses’ contract was the establishment of the Professional Nurse Practice Committee.   Through this committee, caregivers are able to sit down with management to discuss and solve any worksite issues that negatively affects the quality of care nurses are able to provide. Nurses are also fighting to maintain professional compensation standards as key to maintaining high-quality care and a low-turnover workforce.

Now, St. John’s management is making severe demands at the bargaining table that would severely curtail the RN’s ability to continue the high quality care their patients deserve.  The hospital’s most recent proposal includes demands to:

· Eliminate the Professional Nurse Practice Committee where equal numbers of RNs and management can discuss patient care issues.

· Provide minimal wage increases, coupled with reductions in benefits and seniority protections.

Taken together, these demands would significantly threaten professional care standards and lead to turnover which would compromise patient care.

The St. John’s nurses are proud to provide some of the highest quality care in the St. Louis region. Their work sustains this thriving Level 1 Trauma center that is the hub of the local medical community.

The nurses are working hard to avoid a work action like the one they were forced to take in 2001 when picket lines went up at the hospital for 72 hours.  UFCW Local 655 is preparing, if needed, to reach out to labor unions in St. Louis, across the state of Missouri and in communities throughout the region to ask for their help.  St. John’s is part of the Sisters of Mercy Health System which operates health care facilities in Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.  Union members in towns served by a Sisters of Mercy facility would be asked to contact their local hospital to put pressure on the health network to do the right thing in St. Louis.

“My job is taking care of patients and I take great pride in the work that I do.  But if my employer continues to undermine my work and silences my voice over the quality of care we can provide, I’ll have no choice but to take action,” said a long-time nurse at St. Johns.  “It broke my heart to carry a picket sign outside this hospital in 2001 because I never thought my employer would force me to take such drastic action.  But I’m ready to do it again if I have to.  Our patients are that important to me.”
Negotiations between the hospital and UFCW Local 655 bargaining team have broken off and no further dates are scheduled.

“We are willing to meet with St. John’s whenever the hospital is ready to move away from its draconian demands,” said Jim Dougherty, President of UFCW Local 655.  “We are working with our nurses to determine when to give St. John’s the ten-day notice our contract requires that would end our extension and signal the beginning of a work action.”

UFCW Local 655 will be holding a mass meeting in John’s Mercy Medical Center.  RN’s should contact their union representatives or their local union for more information.


June 2, 2004

UFCW Supports Nurse Staffing for Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2004

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) applauds nurses nationwide, today, on National Nurse Day, and every day, for their commitment and dedication to their patients and the nursing profession.

“The U.S. health care crisis is bringing mounting pressure on health care providers to do more and make do with less,” said UFCW International Vice President and Director of the union’s Health Care and Professional Division Greg Hamblet. “Decreasing staffing levels exponentially increases the burnout rate for nurses and puts quality patient care at risk. We need federal legislation, like Rep. Schakowsky’s, that sets mandatory nurse-to-patient staffing standards to protect patients.”

Schakowsky (D-IL) is introducing the Nurse Staffing for Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2004, today. The measure establishes minimum staffing levels for different hospital units. Once minimum levels are met, the Act will require hospitals to develop staffing plans, in consultation with staff, to meet patient needs in the hospital.

A recent poll conducted by the National Consumers League and the AFL-CIO found:

• Nearly half or 45 percent of those who have had direct hospital experience in the past two years believe that their safety or that of a family member was compromised by inadequate nurse staffing levels.

• More than a third report not receiving important elements of care in a timely fashion.

• More than 75 percent support legislative action to improve nurse-to-patient staffing standards.

Schakowsky’s bill creates a framework for providing patients with the consistent quality care they deserve by establishing minimum direct care registered nurse-to-staff ratios. “Too many hospitals are resistant to establishing and enforcing safe staffing levels,”” said Hamblet. “Federal legislation on this critical issue is long overdue. We’re losing too many good nurses and putting patients at risk because of inadequate staffing levels. The UFCW is working with numerous unions on the nurse campaign to support the Schakowsky legislation, and ensure that nurses have a strong voice in establishing working conditions that allow them to provide the quality care their patients require.”

January 12, 2004

Wal-Mart’s War on Workers: Frontline Report from Las Vegas

Las Vegas — The nation’s largest retailer continues to violate its worker’s rights. Wal-Mart faces new complaints and will have to defend itself before an NLRB judge for its illegal intimidation, harassment, and retaliation against workers organizing with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

For three years, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club workers in Las Vegas have been working to organize for a voice on the job and better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Continually breaking the law to silence them, Wal-Mart’s “”Peoples Division”” has systematically suppressed workers’ legal right to exercise a democratic free choice for union representation.

Larry Allen, a former Wal-Mart Supercenter produce clerk at their Eastern & Serene office in Henderson, Nevada, was fired after giving testimony to the NLRB and spending two of his vacation days to speak alongside Democratic presidential candidates in a forum on health care at the UFCW Convention in San Francisco in August 2003. His dismissal followed a well-documented track record of intimidation and coercion at the Eastern & Serene Supercenter.

The National Labor Relations Board has ordered a hearing to begin February 10, 2004. The case charges that Wal-Mart managers:

Ø Prohibited employees from talking about the union and distributing information in break rooms and on store property;

Ø Made employees feel that they were under surveillance for union activities;

Ø Asked employees to spy on co-workers on behalf of the company;

Ø Refused to allow union representatives on the property;

Ø Confiscated union literature from employees and threatened workers with reprisals for accepting literature;

Ø Asked the police to remove union organizers from the property;

Ø And illegally fired Larry Allen for his pro-union support.

Wal-Mart’s attempt to use Mr. Allen as an example to intimidate other employees underscores the company’s discriminatory policies. The NLRB complaint states that Wal-Mart has been “”interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees”” in the exercise of their rights.

Larry Allen was fired fighting for his rights. He is one of a growing number of Wal-Mart workers bravely raising their voices for the rights of all workers.

The 1.4 million member United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) is America’s neighborhood union representing workers in neighborhood grocery stores across the country. UFCW puts dinner on the table for America’s families with members working in meatpacking and food processing. UFCW gives a voice to care with representation for nurses, medical technicians and nursing home workers.