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An Open Letter to Striking Nurses

Oct 18, 2021

Seven months is a long time. It is too long for a strike to last. Too long for conflict in a community suffering through a pandemic. Too long for nurses to wait to benefit from the contract the union was negotiating.

It is time to come back to work and enjoy the benefits of the terms of the last, best and final offer that provides additional staffing on most units, including dedicated resource nurses on many units, and 4:1 ratios on 23S and 24N, as well as 36N. It is time to receive an incremental step increase in addition to your annual step increase and enjoy enhanced wages for the work you do. For instance, those of you who were on the Hire Step through Step 12 pre-strike, and had an anniversary step in the last 7 months, will have an hourly rate that is 9.3% higher upon their return. Those on Step 15 pre-strike who had anniversary step in the last 7 months will have an hourly rate that is 13.5% higher upon their return.

Last week we declared an impasse in negotiations, given that we have not changed our last, best and final offer since August 5th and there are no bargaining sessions scheduled or planned, despite repeated outreach to the MNA. We announced on Friday that we would implement the terms of this last, best and final offer on Sunday, October 17th, so you don’t have to wait any longer to enjoy those benefits.

Why is now the right time for you to come back to work? It is the right thing to do for the community and the hospital that you care about. The MNA bargaining committee has misled you time and time again. They built this strike on the premise that the hospital was unsafe, but the strike was really about pursuing their agenda about staffing ratios, which has failed in ballot initiatives. They were wrong about our quality and safety - SVH has an outstanding track record in safety and staffing, which was validated by well-respected 3rd parties. In fact, Saint Vincent Hospital has always acknowledged that 2020 was a difficult year with the COVID surges. It was not perfect, but working together, we took care of the community. Your bargaining committee told you that we would never hire permanent replacement nurses; they were wrong, as we have now hired 217 of them. They told you that your unemployment would never be stopped prematurely, and you would never have to pay it back; they were wrong. They said the strike would never last through Labor Day; that was not true. They said the strike would not stretch into the fall and winter; that appears not to be true either. They have shared inaccurate information so many times. Why would you continue to trust them?

This is not the year 2000. In looking back and reflecting on the issues back then, the hospital may have been the one over-reaching. Now, more than 20 years later, it is the MNA who has over-reached and prolonged a conflict that could have been resolved months ago. The MNA’s failure this time has created anger and frustration. Instead of stepping back and thinking about the fact that neither side is winning, the MNA is digging in harder.

Because of this, your bargaining committee does not want you to think for yourself. They do not want to hear your point of view if it differs from theirs. However, your bargaining committee has agreed, but for one issue, to the last, best and final offer that we extended over 2 months ago. The contract they wanted went into effect on October 17th. So why wait to receive the benefits of that offer? Since they won’t let you officially vote on it, now is the time to vote on the last, best and final offer with your actions. If you are planning to come back to work at Saint Vincent Hospital, do the right thing and either tell the bargaining committee to call off the strike or just come back now.

The permanent replacement nurses who are here are our colleagues and neighbors. They live in our community. They are working every day to care for the community. Many of them are your MNA member colleagues. While we were transparent about hiring them, we also knew that it was a difficult decision, but in order to keep services open during a pandemic amid a nursing shortage, we did what was necessary to avoid care disruption.

The vast majority of you will be able to return to your exact pre-strike roles. For those of you who are not able to return to your exact role, come back and work with us. We have committed to the MNA that we will not force you or the permanent replacement nurses to accept jobs you do not want, and we have proposed alternatives intended to address those limited circumstances where your exact pre-strike position may not be available. However, delaying the vast majority who can come back to work today is not fair to your colleagues or our community. While your bargaining committee may never acknowledge your sacrifice, Saint Vincent Hospital has committed to the MNA that it will.

Each and every person who has crossed the picket line to come to work has received some level of harassment. They have all survived the bullying and are stronger for it. They welcome others back who want to return and will help ease the pain of the harsh words you may receive by sharing their own experiences.

To see the full last, best and final offer, just check out our website https://www.stvincenthospital.com/strike-news, as we know that the bargaining committee refuses to share this information with you. If you do decide to return, we look forward to welcoming you to help us provide the great care we have delivered for well over a century.

Sincerely,

Carolyn Jackson signature

Carolyn Jackson
Chief Executive Officer
Saint Vincent Hospital