Massachusetts Nurses Settle Unfair Labor Charges Against Steward Hospital

Over 100 registered nurses at a Massachusetts hospital have settled their dispute with Dallas-based Steward Health Care and received wage increases, access to a defined pension and other improvements, the Lowell Sun reports.

The nurses had previously filed unfair labor practice charges with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board after the for profit healthcare company issued a threat to close the hospital unless nurses stopped negotiating. Several Massachusetts politicians had spoken in favor of the nurses, the Sun reports.

“It’s a great victory for the nurses who stood up for themselves and others in the community,”David Schildmeier, public communications director for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, told the Sun. “It shows the nurses stood strong and worked hard for this settlement.”

Steward Nashoba Valley Medical Center nurses are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, and say nurses received an email to the negotiating team in August after Steward canceled scheduled talks with nurses. “If this offer is not acceptable, NVMC will seriously consider the closure of the hospital,” the email reads.

A release from the nurses association says “Under federal labor law, it is illegal for an employer to threaten to close a facility as a threat of retaliation and force against employees exercising their rights to bargain a union contract.”

MNA asked to see financial information from Steward to see if the facility really needs to close, but MNA says Steward refused to provide most of the required information. The nurses claim that in past negotiations, Steward said their inability to meet nurse demands for staffing improvements and economic enhancements was not connected to the hospital’s ability to pay. “Management repeatedly stated this was not the case, showing that the employer’s threat is punitive,” the release says.

“The Medical Center has never claimed an ‘inability to pay’ in response to the MNA’s economic proposals. In fact, you specifically acknowledged at the bargaining table that the Medical Center has not made such a claim,” a Steward email to the nurses read.

Steward is currently planning a $100 million expansion at Steward St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Massachusetts.

“Steward’s threat to close the hospital is an attempt to bully the nurses into an agreement that will continue to prevent us from being able to recruit or prevent continued resignations that are making it harder to provide the level of care our patients and this community need,” said Fran Karaska, co-chair of the MNA bargaining unit at NVMC via release. “They continue to place their corporate interests above their commitment to our staff and our patients.”

Hospital spokesperson Mary Crotty told the Nashoba Valley Voice that the financial impact of the nurses’ demands are substantial. “There are genuine concerns about the financial impact that the latest wage increase proposal from our valued nurse team members would have on the viability of the hospital itself, both from a service line perspective and generally,” she told the newspaper. “The hospital and our valued nurse team members have made progress in nearly every negotiating session, and we hope for that progress to continue. We look forward to continuing these scheduled, good faith negotiations.”

Read the full release here.