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Labor unions rally in support of Baystate Franklin nurses

  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses and supporters protest for fair treatment on the Greenfield Town Common, Thursday. RECORDER STAFF/Paul Franz

  • RN Donna Stern, Senior Co-Chair of the Bargaining Unit for the Massachusetts Nursing Association, right, and others protest for fair treatment on the Greenfield Town Common on Thursday. July 20, 2017. Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center Nurses and their supporters protest for fair treatment on the Greenfield Town Common on Thursday. July 20, 2017. Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Baystate Franklin Medical Center Nurses and their supporters protest for fair treatment on the Greenfield Town Common on Thursday. July 20, 2017. Paul Franz—Paul Franz



For the Gazette
Thursday, July 20, 2017

GREENFIELD — Baystate Franklin nurses head back to the bargaining table Friday, the first time since before a strike and lockout that Baystate Health announced Thursday cost the organization about $1 million.

Nearly a month since the nurses went to strike, union head Donna Stern says she feels they are in the “eye of the storm,” but are ready to continue their ongoing negotiations with Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

The day before the nurses union plans to go back to the bargaining table — discussing key issues of staffing, overtime pay and health care — regional labor unions, joined by the nurses, rallied on the Greenfield Town Common as people made their way home from the workday.

“It’s about our fight,” Stern said before the rally. “So we’re very excited to have all the support from the community. We thought the turnout for the strike and the following lockout rallies show that we have a tremendous amount of community support.”

The rally that saw a few dozen union members and residents gather was organized by Eric Bauer of Jobs with Justice and David Cohen of Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolutions.

Bauer expressed his frustrations with what he sees as a lack of progress in the negotiations to this point.

“I thought the strike would make a difference,” Bauer said. “It didn’t seem to, so we really need to give Baystate a black eye and tell all of the Pioneer Valley what’s going on.”

Bauer told the crowd that the union groups will organize a rally in Springfield, where they plan to picket in front of the home of Baystate Health’s CEO Mark Keroack.

Union leaders at the rally pointed to labor negotiations with nurses across the state, including at Baystate Noble where Stern said they will be taking a strike vote soon.

“They’re taking a hard line in all of these negotiations, which really makes you think they care more about getting rid of the unions than the health care of the community,” Cohen said.

The negotiations will continue Friday, scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We’re hoping that Baystate will actually begin to bargain in good faith,” Stern said. “Our hope is between calls from legislators, from community members — all the outpouring of support — they’ll see that all the support is behind the nurses and I hope they will start listening.”

Baystate Health released a statement to the Greenfield Recorder on the day of the rally:

“As we head back to the negotiating table (Friday), we will continue to bargain in good faith with the MNA as we strive to agree on a fair contract,” Baystate Health spokeswoman Shelly Hazlett said. “With the financial burden of the strike exceeding $1 million to date, we hope to achieve resolution so that we can return our full attention to our mission.”

The price tag of the strike comes primarily from the cost of temporary nurses needed for the three-day lockout and the additional security hired, Hazlett said.

When nurses returned to work after the strike and overlapping lockout the last week of June, Stern said the work environment wasn’t “pleasant upon our return.”

“Things seem to be a bit better, but I sort of feel like we’re in the eye of the storm,” she said. “The contract is not done yet and we’re still fighting.”

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264