Youngstown nurses fight for high-quality patient care

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Nurses at Northside Medical Center in Youngstown, Ohio, say the quality of patient care is their major concern in ongoing contract negotiations with the hospital. The 400 nurses represented by the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association have been working without a contract since July 2012.

In their quest for safe patient care, the nurses have reached out to the community, through informational picketing during the negotiations. Their efforts caught the attention of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who recently met with the nurses and sent a letter to Northside CEO Kirk Ray. In his letter, Sen. Brown said a negotiated agreement between the hospital and its nurses "will benefit the workers, their families, the hospital management, and the entire Youngstown community."

Sen. Brown urged Northside managers and ValleyCare Health System, which was taken over by Nashville, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems in 2010, to work toward a fair contract and resolve differences with the nurses union at the bargaining table, noting that "compromise is what the collective bargaining process is all about."

Both sides are scheduled to meet for talks this week. YGDNA President Eric Williams called on Northside administrators and CHS to make a new commitment to the bargaining process. "While CHS officials claim to be willing to bargain," he says, "their actions speak louder than words. So far, they have committed to just four hours of negotiations on Wednesday."

The AFT-affiliated Ohio Nurses Association, which is the official bargaining agent for the Northside unit, says that CHS must allow Northside managers to stay engaged in contract talks. "The on-again, off-again pattern that CHS has imposed on our bargaining is not the approach of an organization that wants to reach an agreement that is good for our patients," says Kelly Trautner, deputy executive officer of the ONA. "Northside's nurses are committed to the bargaining process, and to reaching an agreement that will preserve the award-winning patient care that this hospital has provided the Youngstown community." [Adrienne Coles/ONA press release]

September 10, 2013