BLAIR COUNTY, PA — On February 28th, registered nurses with UPMC Altoona voted by a 97% majority to ratify a new 3-year contract with UPMC.
“From the beginning we have made it clear this is about our patients and protecting high quality care,” said Paula Stellabotte, a registered nurse in the ICU. “We are really proud to have advocated so long and so hard for this community and now we have a contract that reflects those values.”
A major sticking point in negotiations was staffing. The new contract maintains staffing language to ensure nurses are not assigned too many patients. Good staffing leads to better patient outcomes, fewer readmissions, and higher patient satisfaction.
“As a nurse, I want to make sure I have enough time to give each one of my patients my full attention and am on top of any changes in their condition,” said Jaime Weigand, an RN from the Emergency Room. “My patients want to know that if they need me, I can be there quickly because I won’t have too many other patients to be caring for at the same time. This contract will ensure those staffing guidelines are followed.”
Nurses were also able to reach fair compromises on healthcare, wages, and retirement that maintain quality jobs at the hospital, which help recruit and retain the best nurses.
Contract negotiations began in October, but on February 11th nurses held a one-day unfair labor practice strike after UPMC walked away from the table. When returning for work the next morning, hundreds of nurses were told they had been “temporarily replaced” and were left out in the cold. All of the nurses were called back over the next several days.
“We were willing to do whatever it took to stand up for our patients and our community,” said Stellabotte. “After the strike, we came back to the table and were able to negotiate a strong contract in just a few sessions. Nurses will always stand together for our patients — we are here to take care of this community and will always be their advocates.”
800 registered nurses at the hospital are members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.
New Contract Overwhelmingly Approved
On October 16th, nurses at Allegheny General Hospital voted overwhelmingly to approve a new two year contract that provides economic security and a focus on patient quality and safety.
Quality and Patient Safety: In a changing healthcare environment that ties funding reimbursement to quality care and patient satisfaction, AGH’s new contract safeguards important patient safety provisions such as:
Economic Security: In the midst of economic challenges nurses approved a contract that:
Regional Hospital of Scranton healthcare workers hit the picket line on March 19th to fight for the future of healthcare in the community.
“Our patients and the Scranton community deserve a dedicated team of healthcare professionals who can give them the time and attention they deserve,” said Michel Lipperini, RN. “Unfortunately, the hospital wants to make changes that could put that in jeopardy.”
RHS management recently proposed contract changes that would allow for outsourcing in every hospital department.
“So instead of a well-trained, motivated and dedicated team, your healthcare would be farmed out to the lowest corporate bidder,” said John Fitzpatrick, who has worked in housekeeping and transportation. “Do you want someone cleaning your room, or the OR, who doesn’t know how to properly disinfect it, or a revolving door of nurses and aides at your bedside? We know the community wants and deserves better.”
Workers also say RHS has an economic responsibility to the community. The hospital is on good financial footing, and that success should boost the Region.
“We expect one of the largest employers in the area, who is doing well financially, to provide the good jobs our community so desperately needs,” said Michele Uhranowsky, RN. “It is irresponsible for them to hire outsourced workers at low wages. It’s bad for Scranton’s healthcare and Scranton’s economy.”
A lack of competitive wages also puts quality care in jeopardy. “If there is a better paying job down the road, how can we recruit and retain the best healthcare workers?” continued Uhranowsky.
Over 800 RHS workers have been negotiating a new contract since December. They were unable to reach an agreement by the February 28th deadline, and are working under the old contract while negotiations continue.
On March 1st, healthcare workers at RHS voted by an overwhelming majority to reject the hospital’s contract proposal. The offer includes:
Over 800 workers at RHS will continue working under the old contract while negotiations continue. On March 19th, there will be an informational picket from 11:00am-5:00pm at the hospital. All are welcome to come out and show support!
It was a difficult negotiation process for service and maintenance workers at Washington Hospital. Facing attacks on wages, seniority, and other basic union rights, workers even voted to send a strike notice in case they were not able to reach an agreement. A community rally, which included USW and Central Labor Council members, showed our strength and community support.
During a 30-hour negotiating session at the end of January, an agreement was reached, and workers voted to ratify the new contract by 92%. The agreement includes the significant victories of across-the-board raises that are not tied to discipline and maintaining the 13-hour clause. Raises will be 5.5% over 3 years, a tremendous improvement from earlier proposals, and will allow healthcare to remain affordable.
It was a difficult negotiation, but we were able to keep pushing and in the end have ensured Washington Hospital will continue offering quality care and jobs that our community deserves!
In September, two of our members, Paula Stellabotte, RN from Altoona Regional Health System and Andrea Paganie, Development Specialist from Heritage Valley Staunton Clinic, testified before Harrisburg’s House Committee on Health in support of HB 1992, the Health Care Facilities Workplace Violence Prevention Act introduced by Rep. Nick Micozzie in November 2011. HB 1992 would require hospitals to assess their security risks, help each facility develop a plan to address its own risk factors, and help victims of violence report incidences.
“Since my facility has recently had some serious incidents of workplace violence, I felt empowered to take advantage of this unique opportunity. Our state Capitol can be intimidating with its multitude of elected officials and their aides. However, once you spend time with them, you realize that they genuinely respect what we do, appreciate us coming to Harrisburg, and want to understand our issues.”
In her testimony, Paula spoke about incidents of violence within her own facility where nurses and other healthcare workers were assaulted by patients and about the increase in weapons brought to the hospital by patients and visitors. Andrea Paganie testified on the benefits of prevention measures called for in the bill that have been implemented in her own facility such as the development of a safety committee that gives frontline workers and management the opportunity to evaluate and respond to safety concerns and make changes to increase safety for their patients and their staff. Through collaboration, engineering changes, increased safety education and policy revisions, Staunton Clinic provides a safer atmosphere for the betterment of the facility and community.
We believe HB 1992 is a step in the right direction but needs input from frontline healthcare workers to make it stronger. We need to file reports at work about the violence or threat of violence we face and share this data with our elected officials and our union so it can be assembled in one place.
Since this legislative session has come to a close, we need to set a plan for passing this legislation next year. We need to become active and tell our stories to our legislators like Paula and Andrea. It might be your own life that you ultimately save.
1300 nurses and frontline healthcare professionals at Chambersburg Hospital ratified a new contract by 94% on July 2nd. The contract focuses on competitive wages and improvements to scheduling.
“We are thrilled that we were able to work together with the hospital and find something that works for all of us,” said Michele Hill, a Medical Transcriptionist who has been working at the hospital for 32 years. “We needed to find solutions that maintain quality care and quality jobs for Chambersburg – and we’ve done that today.”
The agreement balances the hospital’s concerns about rising healthcare costs for employees with a wage scale that will continue to recruit and retain quality healthcare workers. Workers will begin paying for their healthcare benefits, but receive wage increases and a bonus to cover those costs.
The average worker will see raises of 10% over the four years of the agreement. Even after paying for health insurance, each worker will receive at least a $6,000 pay increase over the four years.
The contract also makes improvements to scheduling, allowing for a better work/home life balance, which helps retain workers and prevent sick time and burnout. There is also a renewed commitment to collaborate on solving day to day workplace issues between labor and management, which makes the hospital a better place for workers and patients.
“We’re in the healthcare field because we want to care for people. And we’re here at Chambersburg because we are dedicated to our community,” said Monica Burkholder, Physical Medicine Aide. “We’re all happy to be able to move forward and do what we do best – provide excellent healthcare.”
“What do we want? Quality Care! When do we want it? Now!”
Hundreds of Chambersburg Hospital workers packed the town square on June 27th to fight for quality care and quality jobs in their community.
Over 1300 union workers at the hospital are fighting for a fair contract from Summit Health. The not for profit organization made $44 million in excess revenue last year. Despite that, they are asking for changes to benefits that will cost each employee thousands of dollars, and could jeopardize quality care.
“If Summit Health will not provide good jobs, the community stands to lose the quality nurses and healthcare workers Chambersburg depends on,” said Monica Burkholder, Physical Medicine Aide, who has been with the hospital for 30 years. “This is the only hospital in the area. Our community deserves the best.”
“I am proud of the success of our hospital,” said Tracy Braithwaite, Respiratory Therapist. “It should put us in a position to move forward, continuing to care for our patients with the experienced nurses and other healthcare workers Chambersburg has always counted on. We want to work with Summit Health to make sure this happens.”
Hospital workers were joined by community members and union sisters and brothers from the Letter Carriers, the PA AFL-CIO, and the Teamsters, who grilled hot dogs and hamburgers for the crowd. The community rally was one of the largest union rallies in Chambersburg in decades.