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Nurses rally for new labor agreement with new operators of Wilkes-Barre medical center

08.15.09

August 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Nurses rally for new labor agreement with new operators of Wilkes-Barre medical center

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 28th- Nurses, their family members, community leaders, and members of the labor community from the Wyoming Valley attended a rally on July 25th to show support for the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital workers that are represented by the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) Union. PASNAP is affiliated with the California Nurses Association (CNA) and their Pennsylvania office is located in Conshohocken. PASNAP represents around 450 nurses employed at the medical center located on North River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

Approximately 125 people attended the rally, which included State Representative Eddie Pashinski (Democrat-121st District), the Pennsylvania State American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) President Bill George, and the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council President Sam Bianco. The rally was held on Wilkes-Barre Public Square at noon.

The Wilkes-Barre General Hospital is owned and operated by Community Health System (CHS) Inc., the largest owner of for-profit hospitals in the country. The current labor agreement between CHS and PASNAP expires at the end of August. The two sides have been bargaining but according to Bill Cruice, Executive Director of PASNAP, CHS’s contract proposals will drive dedicated and experienced nurses away from the hospital. Their health plan proposal would force nurses to self-ration needed health care for themselves and their families.

Another major issue between the parties is staffing. The Tennessee based CHS contract proposal would decrease the amount of current staffing levels. The company has operated the Wilkes-Barre Hospital since May 2009 after purchasing the medical facility for $271 million.

The rally was part of a series of community events by the union that includes petitioning the public and passing out yard signs. The union is planning to conduct information picketing at the hospital.

Hospital employees and their supporters gathered at 11:00 am at the River Commons at Union Street, several blocks away from Public Square, and marched holding signs and chanting “patients before profits.” The union believes CHS contract proposals shows the employer is more interested in making more profit than operating a patient caring medical center.

According to Terry Marcavage, PASNAP Staff Representative, the employer is refusing to agree to safe nursing levels and their contract proposals for health care would toss employees into the ranks of the under-insured, by forcing nurses to self-ration health care for themselves and their families, while their CEO Wayne Smith, paid himself $22 million last year.

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