After more than a year of organizing and months of preparing our proposals, we had our first bargaining session with RGH administration as unionized nurses.

Over 45 nurses from across the hospital presented our first set of proposals. It was  empowering to be seated as equals with management and express our ideas of how to make our hospital a place nurses want to come and stay. 

Our initial (pre-contract) proposals are:

  1. A system for problem solving and dispute resolution where issues not resolved at management level are brought to the CNO
  2. Hospital should provide us with bulletin boards in break rooms so we can make “union announcements, sign-up sheets for union events, and other union communications.”
  3. Bargaining committee should be released in order to attend bargaining sessions. We asked for at least one nurse representative from each unit for each session.
  4. RGH should hire an unlawfully terminated Unity nurse to RGH.
  5. RGH should: 
    1. Install metal detectors in ED
    2. Ensure a security presence in patient holding areas at all times
    3. Increase security in parking areas

With the exception of agreeing on details for when a COVID-19 surge could make the bargaining sessions happen virtually versus in person, we agreed on a number of management’s proposed “ground rules” that will hopefully make negotiations go more smoothly.

One bargaining rule management proposed and that we did not agree to is having management read and pre-approve our own union flyers. Management doesn’t want us to post flyers they interpret as “inflammatory.”  

In total, we presented management with twenty-four articles ranging from Personnel Files and Evaluations to Staffing and Medical Benefits. Management listened respectfully while we walked them through proposals that could really help us retain the nurses we need to staff the hospital appropriately. 

Management made only two proposals to us today. One is an article preventing us from going on strike during the term of the Agreement. The other was a Recognition clause stating who would be covered under the contract. Our proposals includes CNLs (all except Adult ED). Management’s  proposal excludes CNLs from the Recognition clause. 

Management informed us that a third medical plan option was going to be available this year during open enrollment. This option will be made available to bargaining unit nurses as well, even though we don’t have details about the plan yet. 

They also informed us that medical premium costs will not be increasing this year. RGH nurses already spend too much on our medical insurance and our proposal made today would cap the costs for future years as well. Our proposal also decreases out of pocket costs and improves coverage. 

“Today I shared with management an experience the wound care team had with the previous CNO. She basically told us that “nursing isn’t about staying in one place for a long time anymore”.  I was able verbalize the value and importance of keeping experienced nurses. We can not be easily replaced. We deserve to be respected and appreciated for what we bring to this organization.” Mary Beth Harahan, Wound Care

“It was important to me to speak on poor staffing levels and how Sands600 is affected. We have seen patient chemotherapy treatment delayed due to inadequate staff, and continue to see experienced chemotherapy certified nurses leaving due to staffing concerns and higher pay elsewhere.” Kim McFarland, Sands 600

“We want to incentivize experienced nurses to come back to the bedside and stay.  This will help improve with safe patient care and help new nurses to have a resource who can teach and prepare them in the beginning of their nursing journey.  Orientation is for a new staff to learn and understand the ways of the unit and how to care appropriately for the patients.  This needs to stop being cut short and then allowing that staff to Orient someone else who is new.  This is the blind leading the blind.  Setting up nurses for success is what we should be doing.  Experienced nurses need to feel valued and appreciated to want to stay.  We ALL should feel proud of the care we give and the place we work.” Christa Kendall, MSDU

“After years of only guessing if our voices were being heard, it was nice to be face to face with upper administration to talk about an issue as important as staff safety.” Aron Gross, 4400

“We are asking to have an in-house float pool reinstated to support our staff. They will be familiar with and to our units with the proper skills to fill in safely. We are also asking to make ENIT a “SWAT Team”. This team will round throughout the hospital 24/7 dealing with patients before they need a higher level of care and responding to all emergencies. They will also be a resource to educate and support our nurses with dealing with critical situations.” Carmen Camelio, MICU