UPDATED: Baystate Franklin nurses begin planned strike, holds afternoon, evening rallies

  • Nurses and their allies picket Baystate Franklin Medical Center Monday morning during their one-day strike. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Nurses and their allies picket Baystate Franklin Medical Center Monday morning during their one-day strike. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Nurses and their allies picket Baystate Franklin Medical Center Monday morning during their one-day strike. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/26/2017 2:36:29 PM

GREENFIELD — Starting at 6 a.m., the nurses took to the streets outside of Baystate Franklin Medical Center for a one-day strike on Monday.

By afternoon, about 100 nurses, residents and union workers from across the region picketed along High Street, carrying signs with messages ranging from “If Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses are out here something is wrong in there” to “Baystate bigwigs pocket millions & shortchange patient care.”

At a noon rally, local union leader Donna Stern told the crowd, amidst honks from cars driving by, “We’re going to win this. We’re not going to stop until we get a fair contract.”

Joining the nurses was Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, and Rep. Susannah Whipps, R-Athol. They both picketed with the nurses.

“I support the nurses. I think they’re in the right in this situation but it’s important to recognize two sides to every situation,” Mark said. “This is a lockout, so it’s up to Baystate to come back to the table.”

A handful of key issues remain unresolved between the two sides in their contentious contract negotiations that began in November: staffing, overtime hours, holiday and sick time, and health insurance plans.

“We certainly didn’t want to do this, but we felt that we were compelled to,” 30-year nurse and bargaining team member Nancy McIver said Monday morning.

After multiple bargaining sessions in the past week, no significant compromises were reached, leading to the strike.

In response, the hospital is running a three-day lockout of the nurses, not allowing them into the building from 7 p.m. Sunday night to 7 p.m. Wednesday.

“I’ve never heard of a pre-emptive lockout before a strike,” retired nurse of 35 years and bargaining team member Charlotte Gordon said.

On Sunday, dozens gathered outside the hospital as nurses, mostly one-by-one, were escorted out of the Greenfield facilities and then replaced with temporary nurses.

Baystate Franklin’s President Cindy Russo has said the three days was the minimum for a contract with the replacement nursing organization they hired. She was unable to pull nurses for the day from sister hospitals, like in Springfield, to fill the gap for the 24-hour strike, like the hospital did at a prior strike during the last contract negotiation, she said.

“From my perspective, things went very smoothly in terms of the transition,” Russo said Monday morning. “Our patients are being well taken care of. My focus has been here in the hospital.”

She added that the Department of Public Health, which oversaw actions last night, told her this morning that everything is up to standards for patient care and that things were well prepared.

It had seemed last Wednesday during bargaining that the two parties were inching closer to a compromise, in advance of a possible strike and a letter from state Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, and state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, to Baystate Health President and CEO Mark Keroack. Later that day, the hospital announced the three-day lockout.

“Once we got that strike notice on June 13, I had no other choice,” Russo said

Though local nurses are hopeful, they do not see a light at the end of the tunnel based on recent negotiations.

“I was born here. I’ve been an employee here for 11 years. I want to stay here,” Jillian Cycz, nurse junior co-chairwoman of the bargaining committee, said. “It’s not a good image when management is not bargaining in good faith at the table.”

Nurses have cited a division between local leadership and hospital leadership in Springfield as a block to progress in bargaining.

“It is important for the system to realize that Greenfield and Franklin County is a unique community and has unique needs,” Rep. Mark said. “The issues of this hospital need to be dealt with at a local level.”

The nurses held another rally at 5 p.m. on High Street, drawing a crowd of about 100 supporters and nurses as rush hour traffic honked in solidarity.

As the rally turned back into picketing, a chant broke out: “Cindy Russo is late, it’s time to negotiate.” The negotiating has been conducted primarily by Baystate Health represenatives from Springfield.

Greenfield Council Treasurer Karen “Rudy” Renaud stood with the nurses during the rally, telling the crowd the next step during the lockout.

The nurses plan to gather at 6 a.m. Tuesday as their strike officially ends. At that point some nurses will attempt to enter the facilities, although they are still locked out until Wednesday evening.

“Let’s see what Baystate does,” Renaud said. “Let’s see if Baystate does the right thing.”

Then at 9 a.m. the nurses will walk over from the hospital to 525 Bernardston Road to speak with Tim Farrell, who is a Baystate Health Board of Trustees member (and sits on the Greenfield School Committee). Nurses will ask Farrell to help ensure good faith bargainning, according to a statement by the Massachusetts Nurses Association early Monday evening. Later Tuesday, the nurses plan to go to the Greenfield Town Common for a rally at noon.


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