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Healthcare Workers Hold Two Strikes in One Week

From Western to Eastern PA, HCPA members strike for better care, better communities

This July, healthcare workers from all job classes stood up on the picket line to improve care at their hospitals and lift up their communities.

On Tuesday, July 19th, Registered Nurses at Heritage Valley Beaver held a one-day strike, walking out of the hospital and joining hundreds of others on a picket line in response to outrageous demands from management. Management wants to increase the number of patients for nurses in some parts of the hospital, and to drastically raise healthcare costs, making care unaffordable for some nurses and their families. Negotiations broke down when management walked away from the table.

“Our hospital is doing well financially – it’s in better shape than it was three years ago, when we reached an agreement that kept affordable healthcare and maintained staffing,” said Jill Richner, RN and a chapter Vice President. “We’re committed to finding a fair agreement with management that doesn’t move nurses backward while our health system continues to grow and thrive.”

The group was joined by supporters, elected leaders, and faith leaders at an afternoon rally.

“None of us want to be on strike today – we want to be in the hospital taking care of our patients,” said Mimi Tambellini, RN in the Behavioral Health Unit and a union chapter Vice President. “But to do that, we need to fight for the kind of staffing that will put our patients’ safety first.”

Days later, service workers at Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia held their own one-day strike, pushing management to invest in the city’s communities. The 130 employees are among the lowest paid hospital service workers in Philadelphia.

“I work with patients every day, and they are my top priority,” said Gary Canada, a certified nursing assistant at CHH. “If the hospital isn’t offering good and competitive jobs, they can’t bring in and retain a strong workforce. We risk losing experienced, dedicated employees to other hospitals or nursing homes, and that affects patients.”

Many of the dietary and environmental service workers (employed by subcontractor HHS) at CHH make less than $11/hour and receive health insurance that does not meet federal standards.

“I am 32 weeks pregnant but my health insurance doesn’t cover my prenatal care,” said Keyana Coles, a hostess at the hospital who was on the picket line early this morning. “Each doctor visit would be $80 and I just can’t afford that on my low wages. I was forced to get care at a free clinic, then the company knocked me down to part-time when I requested off for those appointments. I’m a hard worker. I’ve never called off. I’ve never taken a vacation. I deserve to be treated better, and to know my baby girl is healthy.”

The workers demonstrate that quality healthcare is a team effort. They are part of a growing number of hospital workers across the country who are standing up and uniting to ensure healthcare jobs are good jobs and that healthcare – one of Pennsylvania’s largest industries – is investing in patient care, workers, and its communities.

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