By ERNIE GOTTA
800 nurses in Worcester, Mass., prepare for a strike
Nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., rallied on Sunday ahead of a planned strike on Monday, March 8. The strike, planned to start on International Women’s Day, is their first since 2000 when a 49-day strike helped win their union organizing drive to join the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA).
The contract dispute centers on safe staffing ratios. Nurses are fighting for a ration of one nurse for every four patients. Currently, the ratio is one to five. In the emergency department the ratio is currently one to six!
Tension at St. Vincent is high as the hospital CEO, Carolyn Jackson, has accused union members of bullying other union members into supporting the strike. While Jackson demanded that the MNA condemn bullying at the hospital, workers know better than to trust the tricks of the CEO.
The real intimidation comes from management, which continues to force workers to accept a workload that is dangerous for both patients and staff confronting a pandemic. COVID-19 has presented many challenges to nurses and medical workers everywhere, and the profit-driven model of health care has shown that it is incapable of delivering the care that working people need. The fight for safe staffing is essential in the fight for a health-care system that puts the needs of human beings above the interests of the drive to maximize profits. On March 8, celebrate International Women’s Day by walking the picket line with striking nurses in Worcester, Mass.!
Steelworkers demand a fair contract
About 423 union members of the United Steelworkers Local 1196 at Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) in Pennsylvania voted to authorize a strike with 95% in support.
USW represents 1300 workers at ATI in nine different shops that make titanium for airliner production. The workers have gone seven years without a pay raise and have recently suffered 200 layoffs, supposedly due to a downturn in demand at Boeing. ATI is now looking to take significant concessions on wages and health care from union members.
The contract expired a year ago, on Feb. 29, with an agreement on both sides to extend the contract for one year to continue negotiating without an interruption in production. While ATI released fourth-quarter financial reports to investors that showed losses of $1.12 billion in the final quarter of 2020, reports from the last month show financial improvement is up 7.7%.
The losses can largely be attributed to a one-time restructuring cost coupled with a slight downturn in demand. The solution for ATI was to cut nearly 800 jobs since 2019. The USW claims ATI has $646 million in cash on hand and liquidity of more than $950 million. On top of that, ATI’s 2020 losses are offset by a net increase in 2019 of $258 million from the previous year.
Shame on ATI for trying to improve its bottom line and recover restructuring losses on the backs of workers! A militant strike supported by organized labor on the picket lines from all over would show ATI what real profit loss looks like and open their minds to the idea of providing fair wage increases for workers who have made their investors billions of dollars. Solidarity to USW Local 1196!
Illustration by General Strike Graphics