On the Picket Line

Lorain, Ohio, nurses fight bosses attack on health benefits

By Brian Williams
December 10, 2018

Over 100 nurses, members of Service Employees International Union Local 1199, were joined by area unionists and other supporters in a milelong “silent march” and rally outside the Mercy Regional Medical Center in Lorain, Ohio, Nov. 20. The nurses were protesting hospital bosses’ moves to force them to pay much more for health care.

The day before the unionists voted down management’s demand to replace the workers’ current plans with higher out-of-pocket costs — as much as $7,000 in annual deductibles.

“As one of the greatest and largest providers in the state of Ohio, Mercy RNs deserve to have good health care coverage,” Judy Maldonado, a registered nurse in Mercy’s behavioral health unit and vice president of Local 1199, told the Lorain Morning Journal. She said the union is standing for all workers there, whether they’re in the union or not.

“I believe all human beings deserve to have adequate health care coverage,” she said. “I am here to ask Mercy not just to maintain the health care Mercy RNs currently have but to raise the bar and let other employees — housekeepers, kitchen staff, aides, and everyone else have health care.”

SEIU Local 1199 is in the third year of a five-year contract. Hospital bosses and union officials agreed at the signing to rediscuss the nurses’ health care plan midway through the contract.

“People often think health care is the best for those who deliver the care at the hospital,” Maldonado said. “In truth, we pay very high percentages for our health care and many members of our team at the hospital pay extremely high deductibles.”

Nurse Shelly Shagovac and her husband Stuart, a member of the United Auto Workers union at the Ford auto plant, were among those who joined the action. “They have to make a stance because if they’re going to do this to the nurses,” Stuart Shagovac told the Chronicle-Telegram, “what are they going to do next?

“Keep the faith, keep your morale strong,” said Andrea Thomas, vice president of United Auto Workers Local 2192, who joined the action along with members of the union. The local organizes dining service workers and others at nearby Oberlin College, as well as workers at Lorain County Job and Family Services. “Work together as much as you can,” she said.