Nurses picket for a good contract

August 27, 2008

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.--As many as 200 nurses from Cooley Dickinson Hospital (CDH) and their supporters participated in an informational picket called by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) on August 11.

The picket was held in anticipation of upcoming bargaining sessions. The nurses have been without a contract since January of this year. Two demands that the nurses have raised are that Veterans Day remain a holiday and that charge nurses not be considered supervisors in any upcoming contracts.

Charge nurses, who coordinate shifts in addition to all other bedside duties, are not in a position to discipline, hire or fire workers. The hospital administration, however, has been talking about taking charge nurses off of the hospital floor and making them supervisors.

The MNA is opposed to this for two main reasons. First, the hospital is understaffed, and taking nurses away from the bedside would increase the responsibilities on other nurses, especially since there are no regulations on nurse-patient ratios in Massachusetts.

Second, classifying charge nurses as "supervisors" would remove them from the union, effectively weakening it. For nurses working three 12-hour shifts, working one charge shift would completely remove them from the bargaining unit. In the words of Dick, a worker at CDH, "Making charge nurses supervisors is blatant union-busting."

Kim, another worker, made the point, "Charge nurses are the barrier between management and labor."

By attempting to weaken the union, CDH is clearly trying to undermine the ability of nurses to defend their rights and protect their benefits. The picket was a strong show of support for the union as it continues the fight for a fair contract.

Cooley-Dickinson recorded profits of over $10 million in the last fiscal year, yet it continues to push for more cutbacks on workers' benefits. The MNA is demanding a fair contract, and saying "no" to union busting.

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