In full transparency, the following is a press release from the Massachusetts Nurses Association
WORCESTER – The St. Vincent Hospital nurses today announced the date of Jan. 3rd for a vote to ratify a tentative agreement reached last Friday that would end the nurses historic strike and clear the path for the hospital to begin recalling nurses to provide care to patients and fully reopen the hospital beds. The nurses and Tenet also agreed to suspend picketing outside the hospital from Dec. 20 – Jan. 4 as a show of good faith, and to allow nurses and the police, who have been assisting with the picket lines, to spend time with their families during the holidays.
On Friday, the 285th day of their historic strike for safer patient care, the 700 nurses reached a tentative agreement with Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare that guarantees striking nurses the right to return to their original positions, and provides the staffing improvements the nurses need to end the strike and re-enter the hospital to provide care to their community in the face of an emerging new surge of COVID-19 driven by the Omicron variant.
This week the union is mailing the full agreement to all the nurses for their review and will be holding meetings via zoom and in person over the next several days to ensure that the members fully understand all aspects of the pact to ensure a successful vote for ratification. At that point, the hospital can immediately begin the process of recalling nurses to open desperately needed beds to provide care to the community.
The ratification vote will be held all day on Jan. 3 at the Teamsters Local 170 headquarters, with a final count at 8:30 p.m.
The agreement was reached after two weeks of discussions with federal mediators, and finally settled at an in-person session held Friday, which was mediated by U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. It comes after two years of negotiations and more than 43 negotiating sessions. It followed what is now the longest nurses strike nationally in over 15 years and the longest nurses strike in Massachusetts history, with 285 days of picketing, community rallies and marches, tremendous support from federal, state, and municipal public officials who rallied to the nurses’ cause. The strike also garnered the support of faith-based, social justice and labor organizations and their members not only from across the state but from across the world.
“This agreement, and the improvements it includes was hard fought, and represents a true victory, not only for the nurses, but more importantly, for our patients and our community, who will have access to better nursing care, which was why our members walked that strike line for the last nine months through four seasons,” said Marlena Pellegrino, RN, longtime nurses at St. Vincent Hospital and co-chair of the St. Vincent Hospital nurses’ local bargaining unit with the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
While the nurses admit they did not get everything they sought, they secured important staffing improvements that will enhance their ability to provide the safe, high-quality care all St. Vincent patients deserve. The final component of the agreement reached at Friday’s session is a “back to work” provision, which guarantees all nurses who went out on strike the right to return to work in the same position, hours, and shift that they worked prior to the strike, while providing a process for the parties to follow in recalling the nurses back to work.
“With this agreement we can go back into that building with great pride not just in what we got in writing in the agreement, but for what we have built together as nurses who know they did everything they could for their patients and their community,” said Dominique Muldoon, RN, a nurse at the hospital and co-chair of the bargaining unit. “Once this is ratified by the members, we are now committed to getting back into that building as soon as possible to provide the care our patients deserve.”
Specific details of the pact are being withheld until the tentative agreement can be shared with the rank and file members and the ratification vote is held.
“I have nothing but pride and appreciation for all 700 nurses who literally put everything on the line for their patients and this community. There are so many of our members who won’t be impacted by this agreement who stood out there with us every day for their fellow nurses, but more importantly for our patients and for the city we so proudly serve,” said Marie Ritacco, RN, a member of the nurses negotiating committee and vice president of the MNA. “We have been so moved and uplifted by all the support we received throughout this ordeal, from people honking their horns, or stopping by with food or water, for those who put up signs or walked the line with us, for the dozens of unions, community and faith-based organizations that stood with us and supported us in so many ways, for the efforts of our Congressional leaders, members of our legislative delegation, the City Council and Mayor – they all share in this agreement and we thank them all. Our strike struck a chord, and for that and because of that we will walk into that building with our heads held high.”