2016 began with a wave of organizing in which nearly 3,000 nurses and professionals voted to join PASNAP. The year ended just as strong, with contract wins for 4,500 nurses and professionals at Temple, Hahnemann, St. Chris and Einstein. Negotiations are ongoing at DCMH, which began negotiating later due to the hospital’s sale to Prospect Medical Holdings, and Pottstown, where nurses won their union election in September.
Disparities Between Union and Non-Union Hospitals Lead to New Organizing
The issues that led to nurses and professionals organizing at the various hospitals were the same: short staffing, inadequate support staff, broken or missing equipment, seemingly arbitrary changes in policies, and management that doesn’t listen and seems motivated more by money than patient care, all leading to a feeling that nurses were having to work harder without being given the support they need to care for their patients. Many felt they were being treated unfairly, ignored, disrespected and undervalued by management. Nurse pay and benefits lagged, while upper levels of management were richly rewarded. Conditions had deteriorated to the point that dissatisfaction was high among staff which led to high rates of turnover.
At the same time, many of the nurses had friends at Temple and Crozer, where nurses were generally much happier and had been able to win and maintain significantly higher standards than at the unorganized facilities. Hahnemann was seeing turnover at a staggering 40% per year, while Einstein had earned the reputation among its own staff for being a training ground for Penn: Nurses would come in as new grads, stay for several months, and then move on to Penn or Presby.
City-Wide Fight at Five Hospitals
The organizing victories, combined with Temple’s contract expiring at the end of September, led to an unprecedented five hospitals bargaining simultaneously in and around Philadelphia.
Nurses and Professionals joined in a coordinated city-wide effort to pressure the Hospitals through their combined strength. PASNAP members built solidarity through joint strategy sessions, joint staffing petitions, and coordinated actions at the Hospitals. Members also applied pressure publicly, through social media, press, and outreach to elected officials. After visits from groups of nurses, 28 elected officials, including most of the City Council and most State Senators and Representatives, sent letters to the CEOs of all five hospitals in support of improved staffing and the union’s negotiating efforts. A number also participated in press conferences and other actions, and several signed on as new co-sponsors for PASNAP’s legislation on workplace violence prevention and safe staffing ratios.
Temple’s union was the first to settle, at the end of October, winning improved language on staffing, scheduling, job bidding, and fair grievance procedure. The Temple contract served as the model for the agreements at Hahnemann, St. Chris and Einstein. The Temple union also won two important union-building provisions: the right of union representatives to meet with new hires during orientation to explain the union and the contract, and Political Action Check-off, which gives members the right to make voluntary contributions to the union’s political action fund through payroll deduction.
The settlement at Temple set the standard and increased pressure on the other hospitals to settle. Nurses at Hahnemann, St. Chris and Einstein upped the pressure with joint informational picketing at all three facilities on November 15th. Hahnemann and St. Chris then settled their contracts on Dec 2nd, and Einstein on December 20th, ratifying their agreements by over 90% at Hahnemann and St. Chris and 98% at Einstein.
Contract Highlights from Three Newly Organized Hospitals
- Fair wage scales with steps based on experience as a nurse — not subject to favoritism or whims of manager — with yearly cost of living increases and salary steps that will allow a majority of nurses to see average pay increases of 4-5% per year over the life of the contract
- Fair and Transparent Scheduling guidelines; nurses in control through self-scheduling on each unit; improvements to system of “on-call”
- Agreed upon forms to document situations of short staffing, and regular staffing committee meetings to review short staffing forms, census and acuity measures and other data relevant to staffing
- Hospitals agree to post staffing grids/guidelines on all units, hire and schedule enough staff to meet the guidelines, won’t pull or cancel if that would put units below the grids
- Nurses will only be pulled to similar practice units for which they have the appropriate skill and experience
- Charge with reduced or no assignment
- Healthcare coverage: significant improvements in coverage for employees who receive care outside the Hospital
- Rights/protections that are standard in all PASNAP contracts, such as:
- Fair and transparent policies for job bidding and picking up extra shifts or overtime
- Fair grievance procedure that includes discipline only for just cause, with a neutral arbitrator making the final decisions
- An ongoing voice through the union, with management no longer allowed to make the same types of unilateral changes