Health Care

Northside Nurses, Steward Reach Tentative Agreement

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – The negotiating committee representing the nurses of Northside Regional Medical Center has reached a tentative agreement with the hospital’s owner, Steward Health Care. The agreement is subject to ratification by the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association membership.

Association President Laurie Hornberger made the announcement just after 11 p.m. Thursday evening. More details on the agreement will be released next week, she noted.

Just hours before, Hornberger and other members of the negotiating committee held a press conference to report they had submitted their proposal to the Boston-based Steward. Few insights about the proposal were given at the press conference held at 5 p.m. at the District Three Ohio Nurses Association office on Mahoning Avenue.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, spoke on behalf of the committee. The organization is the national affiliate of the Ohio Nurses Association and the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, which represents nearly 200 nurses at Northside.

The nurses have been in contract negotiations with Steward since April, during which time they were ready to take another year-long contract extension that would have meant no  increase to salaries. In the weeks since Steward announced its intent to close Northside Sept. 20, members of the committee have felt like “they were talking to a brick wall,” Weingarten said.

Because negotiations are ongoing, she couldn’t offer any details about the proceedings or whether progress has been made. However, she prefaced her short report with “You can read between the lines about the statement I’m about to give. … I went to the bargaining table myself as the president of the AFT,” she said. “And we had what was an interesting session with management.”

After the negotiating committee submitted its proposal – about which no details were provided  – Steward management went back to review the proposal “and they said that they are coming back this afternoon or this evening,” Weingarten said.

“So, there may be some progress today. There may not be,” she said. “But we want to go in and talk to our members about this.”

A membership meeting was to follow the press conference.

The only thing Weingarten said about the proposal was that the negotiating committee was still fighting to keep “a medical facility on the north side of Youngstown,” and to ensure nurses who have worked at Northside for 20 or 30 years “get treated more fairly than they have been treated thus far,” she said.

She went on to reiterate the need for Youngstown’s north side to have a birthing hospital, “and we will be fighting to keep that hospital open,” she said. “The bottom line is this. We very much believe, as you all know, that Youngstown needs a second hospital. And that the hospital should not close.”

After Weingarten made her statement, Jean Mulichak, first vice president of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, took a moment to thank those gathered for continuing to support the nurses’ efforts. Mulichak was emotional as she addressed attendees.

“We want you all to know how much we appreciate this support that you’ve given us all along,” she said. “We love our hospital. I’ve been there 39 1/2 years. I love it there and I’m still proud to be a nurse at Northside Hospital.”

In attendance were about 10 nurses along with union representatives and elected officials, including state Rep. John Boccieri, D-59, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-33, and Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti. Schiavoni said he plans to contact Steward management to again insist that they “give these nurses what’s due to them,” he said.

“Of course we want to keep the facility open. But if that’s not going to happen under Steward’s management, then these nurses deserve severance, they deserve 401(k) matches, they deserve things that they’ve negotiated for that are fair,” he said.

The press conference came a day after the Ohio Nurses Association launched a campaign against Steward in an effort to ensure that “community residents get the care they need in light of the company’s greedy, hasty decision” to close Northside Regional Medical Center, according to a statement released  Wednesday.

In the release, the union said it will work with its pension fund trustee network in New York and California to flag its concerns of financial risks stemming from Steward’s work “as trustees consider future investments.” In addition, the union vowed to explore any “legal possibilities” to help maintain basic, essential health care services for Youngstown residents.

RELATED:
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Northside Nurses, Elected Officials Sound Off on Closing
Northside Closing Was Decade in the Making
Unions Call Northside Closing a ‘Devastating Decision’
Northside Closing No Surprise to Area Hospital Execs
On the Scene: Labor Discusses Northside Closure
On the Scene: Northside Nurses Talks Hospital Closing

Pictured: Randi Weingarten (center), president of the American Federation of Teachers addresses those gathered at Thursday evening’s press conference. She’s joined by Laurie Hornberger (left), president of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, Jean Mulichak (right), first vice president of the YGDNA, other members of the negotiating committee and elected officials.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.