On the Picket Line

Vermont nurses call strike for wages, staffing

By Maggie Trowe
July 23, 2018

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Nurses at the University of Vermont Medical Center are holding a two-day work stoppage July 12-13 to demand a 24 percent wage increase, fuller staffing to assure patients’ health and safety and a $15 minimum wage for all other hospital workers. The Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals Local 5221 represents 1,800 workers at the teaching hospital. Their contract expired July 9.

“Nurses are angry,” Local 5221 President Laurie Aunchman, a working nurse, told the Militant at a solidarity meeting at the Vermont Workers Center June 24. “We need a better nurse-to-patient staffing ratio and we need more pay. We make $2 an hour less than nurses at the Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh.

“Negotiations are going badly,” she said. Nearly three-quarters of the membership in mid-June voted 94 percent to authorize a strike.

Signs reading, “Patients before profits, support the nurses!” dot yards here and on farms along roads into town.

Nurses in New England, upstate New York and elsewhere have carried out several recent struggles. Aunchman said her union supported the successful organizing drive at Albany Medical Center. Nurses voted 1,161-582 in mid-April to be represented by the New York State Nurses Association, in spite of the bosses’ anti-union campaign, which included threats to have nurses from the Philippines deported.