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In The Arena

In the Arena: New front in contract fight

The ongoing war of words between Baystate Franklin Medical Center management and its union nurses appears to be getting real ugly, real fast.

Baystate management this week invoked the “nuclear option” in its two-plus-year contract negotiation with the Mass. Nurses Association, declaring the contract talks at an “impasse,” a legal definition that effectively allows the hospital to impose the terms of what it says it its “last, best contract offer,” including a series of step raises and other benefit-related changes that the union still claims is insufficient.

“Let me be clear — we still do not have a contract,” union spokeswoman Donna Stern, RN, said. “The decision to declare this impasse hasn’t changed that.”

Stern and fellow bargaining unit co-chair Linda Judd, RN, said the union felt “blindsided” by management, which claims, according to FMC President Chuck Gijanto, that the impasse declaration was made in part in “fairness to the nurses who had been waiting for years for the increases they deserve.”

“That infuriates me,” Judd said. “We have been negotiating for those raises to be retroactive, which they should be, and they give us this pittance of a bonus ... they don’t care if the nurses get a raise or not.”

The union has filed a complaint with federal labor officials and Stern and Judd both said that the union is considering all options, including a strike, which has already been approved by the rank-and-file.

“We don’t want to go on strike — no nurse does,” Stern said. “But they aren’t leaving us a whole lot of options.”

Not that there were all that many to begin with, based on how this negotiation has been going recently.

Sharing in the ‘gold’

Don’t look for Greenfield to be among the western Massachusetts communities looking for state help to “mitigate” potential economic development losses related to establishment of a Springfield MGM casino.

Unlike Northampton, which recently filed paperwork with the state gaming commission to try and recoup millions the city may lose when that casino finally opens, Greenfield Mayor William Martin believes a Springfield MGM could be a potential economic “golden goose” for his town.

“I met with the gaming commission about a year ago and it appeared to me that this could be positive for us,” Martin said. “If MGM could see what we were doing up here and how we would be able to be a destination for their customers as well, then they would want to pay us to make sure we were able to have those attractions in place, so, in our case, it would be a positive mitigation.”

Martin says one of the keys will be the establishment of passenger rail service between Springfield and Greenfield, which is still on track to happen by next year.

“They could have some of their customers take the train up here and take part in one of our many different arts and outdoor events and activities and maybe stay at the new Wilson’s Hotel, then take the train back the next day,” Martin added.

Martin’s casino theory clearly has a lot of moving parts, not the least of which is the assumption that the operators of any gaming facility want to send their patrons anywhere. Usually, the goal of a casino is to keep people from leaving the building, which is why they have their own shows, restaurants, shopping centers. It’s also why there are disturbingly few windows, since they only serve to remind people that there is an actual world outside the facility.

Martin says he’s also hopeful that MGM looks to Greenfield as a resource for food and other operational supplies, not to mention a source for potential workers for some of those high-paying jobs casino operators so often dangle in front of local officials.

“Greenfield could never provide an attraction which could bring in hundreds of thousands of potential visitors to the area, but MGM can do that,” Martin said. “And if we can develop a positive relationship with them, I think it will be good for the community.”

File under: “going all in.”

Appreciating the appointment

I know I’ve had my moments where I’ve been critical of Greenfield’s legislative arm of government, but I feel compelled to pass along a word of thanks to the Greenfield Town Council for its vote this past week to approve my appointment to a vacant seat on the Greenfield Community Television board of directors.

Originally, this was not supposed to be a mayoral appointment, but it somehow turned out that way and I’m guessing that some members of that council were more than tempted to take me “out for a ride” when the time came. That didn’t really happen, for which I am grateful — as I am for the opportunity to play a small role in helping shape the future of an organization in which I truly believe.

Stay warm.

Chris Collins is the Franklin County News Bureau Chief for WHAI, WPVQ and WHMP Radio. He is a former staff reporter for The Recorder, and is a Greenfield native.

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