Nurses picket outside of hospital in latest on contract negotiations

  • Donna Stern, local nurses union chairwoman, left, and her fellow nurses rally outside of Baystate Franklin Medical Center in an informational picket in response to contract negotiations with the hospital on Thursday, April 27, 2017. Recorder Staff/Josh Solomon

  • Nurses and their supporters picket along High Street outside the Baystate Franklin Medical Center on Thursday. April 27, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Nurses and their supporters picket along High Street outside the Baystate Franklin Medical Center on Thursday. April 27, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Nurses and their supporters picket along High Street outside the Baystate Franklin Medical Center on Thursday. April 27, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Nurses and their supporters picket along High Street outside the Baystate Franklin Medical Center on Thursday. April 27, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/27/2017 4:59:33 PM

GREENFIELD — Lining High Street outside Baystate Franklin Medical Center, dozens of nurses and union workers from across Franklin County rallied for the nurses amid ongoing contract negotiations with the hospital.

“It’s really about reminding them that this is their hospital,” said Donna Stern, chairwoman of the nurses union. “It goes beyond the nurses. It’s about all the workers at the hospital.”

The key issues that the two parties are at odds about are there being enough nurses on staff, safety for security officers and wage discrepancies.

“When I look at the number of employees that we have that are 15-, 20-year employees, if it was not good, why would they stay here?” Baystate Franklin President Cindy Russo said. “My hope is that we can come together, finalize this contract and work together to build upon the good work that’s already been established here.”

Several union groups and advocates showed up for the Massachusetts Nurses Association informational picket, including Jobs with Justice, United Electric 274, SEIU 509, teachers unions the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the National Education Association, Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution and the Hampshire and Franklin County Central Labor Council.

“I have nurses in my family. One of my best friends is a nurse. If I was to think about either my aunt or my best friend treated the way these nurses are treated it would drive me crazy,” said lead organizer for the western Massachusetts branch of Jobs with Justice Eric Bauer.

The 1½-hour picket outside the hospital was a moment for the various unions to communicate with each other.

“This is a very important issue that we’re here to stand for,” said Franklin County Central Labor Council President Patrick Burke. “When Baystate is anti-nurse, anti-union, they’re anti-community.”

Lawn signs were distributed at the end of the picket, stating “United for safe patient care,” with “united” in large blue letters.

After the picket, Russo addressed why she felt that the nurses are unhappy – citing changes in the health care system as reasons for uneasiness.

“I can only guess that’s why they feel it’s getting worse — is not because of what’s happening at Baystate Franklin or within the Baystate Health system, which quite honestly has been a tremendous support and without them we’d be even in a worse position in what we might have to do with regards to our employee base, and so I think it’s not about us as a hospital or a system, it’s about this change in the environment of health care,” Russo said.

This past week, Baystate Franklin President Cindy Russo published a “My Turn” editorial in The Recorder and sent the same message via direct mail to residents, stating her position on the ongoing negotiations.

“The picture that they have described to the public is very different from the safe, high-quality care we provide and the positive workplace environment we foster,” Russo said in her letter to the public.

Recently, Baystate Franklin Medical Center was ranked as one of the top 100 rural hospitals in the country, the lone recognized facility in the state.

The group that awarded the distinction, Chartis Center for Rural Health, specializes in evaluating rural hospitals. The manager of the group, Troy Brown, said the group does not release where in the top 100 hospitals ranked, because the distinctions between rankings are not significant enough.

Russo explained why she relies on data for helping to show how the hospital is doing in its care.

“When I was a nurse at the bedside I would always feel like I could use more help because as a caregiver, you always want to give, give, give, right? That’s perception,” Russo said. “But when you’re running a business of making sure first and foremost that the patients are being taken care of with high quality and safety, and then making sure that you’re financially viable and then balancing that, that’s when I have to go on the data.”

At the end of the picket at 5:30 p.m., Stern led a chant of “We will be back.” About 50 nurses and union leaders remained on High Street in front of the hospital as cars continued to honk their horns in solidarity.

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at: jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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