Tufts MC Nurses Report Intimidating Voting Conditions; Balloting Not Secret
BOSTON, April 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Tufts Medical Center today condemned a strike authorization vote by the Massachusetts Nurses Association and its parent union National Nurses United. The union is claiming "an overwhelming majority" of Tufts Medical Center nurses approved the authorization; however, the union's assertion is highly suspect given that they will not share the vote count and Tufts Medical Center nurses reported significant intimidation and irregular voting practices.
Numerous nurses reported to their managers that they were forced to mark their "secret ballots" in front of bargaining committee members and that the ballot box was a transparent, unlocked plastic container with a large hole in the top.
"A bargaining committee member stood over me while I checked off my ballot," said one nurse who was afraid to share her name publicly for fear of union reprisals. "There was no place to go to privately vote my conscience."
Nurse managers also said employees reported being treated differently if they had previously expressed their desire not to strike. Some nurses were asked to put their "secret" ballot in an envelope and sign their name on the envelope.
"All I know was my vote was handled different from someone else's," said another nurse who also asked not to be identified due to fear of further intimidation. "I was told I had to make sure my name was written on the front envelope."
The MNA also falsely told nurses that they were voting on a one day strike; Tufts Medical Center officials have been clear that due to concerns for continuity of care and the cost of bringing in replacement nurses for a minimum of 60 hours, any strike will last for five days.
A strike authorization vote does not mean a strike is imminent or absolute at Tufts Medical Center. Health care organizations are protected by a 10-day notification requirement. The strike authorization means the MNA/NNU can give Tufts MC the 10-day notice at any time. MNA/NNU tries to use the authorization vote as leverage at the bargaining table.
NNU has threatened and led strikes at numerous hospitals in the past year, including 14 hospitals in Minnesota, Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center, Wilkes-Barre General Hospital in Pennsylvania and Washington Hospital Center in DC. The union also held a strike authorization vote at St. Vincent's Hospital in Worcester last week. The union is attempting to push its national agenda of mandatory staffing ratios via this disruptive and counter-productive tactic.
"It's hypocritical for the MNA/NNU to claim it cares about patient safety while it authorizes a potential walkout that would cause undue stress on patients and their families," said Ellen Zane, President and CEO of Tufts Medical Center. "Let me be clear – a strike will never change our position on rigid mandatory staffing ratios, and we continue to ask that the MNA/NNU move toward common ground at the bargaining table so that we can move forward with an agreement that truly puts patients and the community first."
NNU's use of strikes as weapons nationally was made even clearer this week when NNU spokesman Ken Zinn was quoted in the Washington Business Journal on April 11 about strikes at Washington Hospital Center. The WBJ reported: "Zinn said Nurses United, a California-based union that took over representing Hospital Center nurses last year, believes its tactic of multiple, short-term strikes is effective. 24-hour walkouts minimize economic pain to the workers while maximizing visibility and forcing the hospital to hire replacement workers and beef up security."
Should the MNA/NNU strike, Tufts Medical Center is prepared to continue providing patients with safe, high quality care. The hospital has signed an agreement with one of the nation's leading and most reputable temporary staffing firms to provide highly-skilled nurses to care for patients. While the MNA/NNU vote authorized a one-day strike, Tufts Medical Center's agreement with the staffing firm requires nurses who travel here to receive no less than 60 hours of work. Tufts Medical Center must also lower its census before a strike, and it will take time to return volume to normal levels after a strike ends. The hospital estimates the cost of a five-day strike to be approximately $4.2 million.
Tufts Medical Center calls on the MNA/NNU to end the strike threats and instead come to the two scheduled negotiation sessions on April 15 and April 22 ready to work toward a collaborative solution.
SOURCE Tufts Medical Center