By Vincent Cross
This International Workers’ Day nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester held a rally to commemorate both May Day and their nearly two-months long strike for safer working conditions. Negotiations with Tenet Healthcare, the Texas-based corporation which owns St. Vincent, have stalled as Tenet refuses an increase to staffing levels or to lower the current nurse to patient ratio, which is the central demand of the striking nurses.
Despite the administration’s obstinance, morale on the picket line is high, nurses are united and continue to be firm in their demands. This morale was reinforced by their recent victory in obtaining unemployment benefits, something which Tenet had attempted to delay.
One veteran nurse who is on the bargaining team told Tribune, “When nurses are furloughed during budget cuts, it takes them no more than two weeks to receive benefits. But now it takes us almost two months?! That’s no coincidence and it’s also no coincidence that 24 hours after we received benefits all of a sudden Tenet wants to negotiate with us again.”
Over the last few days, Tenet has begun to offer concessions including a retroactive wage. However, they still have not budged on the question of nurse-to-patient staff ratios. “Everyday nurses come up to me and say, ‘you better not have given in, because we can’t lose this fight’”, the nurse continued, “what Tenet doesn’t get is that we aren’t out here for the money: we are fighting for safer conditions for both ourselves and the community we serve.”
Speakers at the rally included nurses, local activists with the Parents Union of Massachusetts (PUMA), as well as teachers also engaged in contract negotiations who spoke in solidarity.
A local city council candidate was also present at the rally. Many local and state politicians have been seen in the past two months taking photo opportunities with the strike, and some ruling class news coverage has implied that Tenet’s recent concessions are a product of pressure from these bourgeois politicians. However, to those workers who have been on the ground and walked the picket lines for any amount of time it is clear that the concessions and any future gains are a victory of the workers alone. It is their tenacity that has forced Tenet to consider their demands, and it is their defiance that has helped inspire a wave of strikes and rallies by teamsters, teachers and other workers across the state.
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