BELLEVILLE, N.J. — “Safe staffing and fair pay, this is the way!” was among the signs at a rally of hundreds of nurses outside Clara Maass Medical Center here May 16. Last August 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East won nearly 80% of the vote for union representation by nurses at the hospital. But negotiations for a first contract for the 540 nurses have stalled.
Registered nurse Tanya Howard told the Militant, “Management told us that they planned to offer the bare minimum in a contract. We are not bare-minimum nurses!”
“The number of patients each nurse takes care of is unfair to us and the patients,” said nurse Lia Devers.
“A safe nurse-to-patient ratio in ICU should be two patients to each nurse, now it is three-to-one,” added Barbara Villanueva, who works in the Intensive Care Unit. Along with safe staffing and higher wages, nurses want a say in how the hospital is run.
On April 26 nine nurses, including Howard and Devers, attempted to deliver a petition to management with 170 signatures of doctors and nurses to protest disciplinary action taken against a rapid response team nurse who has since been fired. The nine nurses were suspended for two weeks by management.
Clara Maass bosses claim the fired nurse “violated hospital protocols.” But the union says she acted to “protect the safety of her patient and herself.”
“It’s outrageous that management suspended us for speaking up for each other in the middle of a chronic nurse shortage,” Howard told the press.