Nurses Back on Job at ELCH, Await New Contract Talks

EAST LIVERPOOL — As dawn crept over the horizon in this river city Tuesday, registered nurses who had been on strike since Saturday filed into the main entrance of East Liverpool City Hospital, anxious to get back to their patients and back to the bargaining table.

Nearly 130 members of the Ohio Nurses Association/East Liverpool Nurses Association Local 5903 walked out at 7 a.m. Saturday, citing unfair labor practices by the hospital administration, with plans of returning to work at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Talks broke down after 11 bargaining sessions and two contract extensions, and once the existing contract expired just before midnight Saturday, nurses took to the picket line.

The limited-day strike was designed to let the nurses show solidarity and their seriousness about seeking a new contract while quickly being able to return to their posts in the midst of the COVID pandemic, union spokesman Ashlee Severs said. 

Severs and her fellow nurses were uncertain whether hospital administrators would lock them out Tuesday morning, but those nurses scheduled to work walked through a tunnel of supporting nurses and others and into the entrance without restraint. 

There, surgical nurses were permitted immediate entry while nurses from other departments met some delay in being able to start their shifts until replacement nurses brought in during the three-day walkout finalized patient reports and left each area, according to nurses who came back outside. 

Among those at the hospital in support of the union was city Councilman John Mercer,  who said he believes as a council member and city resident, “We need this hospital, and I hope they can work this out. It’s important for employees to get wages they deserve.”

Referring to nurses’ duties, Mercer continued, “Think about it: They’re dealing with life and death every day.”

Also there to support the nurses was Daniel Wilson of Wellsville, president of the Columbiana County Young Democrats.

“In this time, nurses work above and beyond, and (their employers) should be doing due diligence to take care of them and work with them to pay them right,” Wilson said. 

Severs said the union had offered to negotiate Tuesday but the offer had not been accepted as of the nurses’ return to work.

A representative in the administrative office said Tuesday afternoon she had not received any updated statements from hospital officials in regard to future bargaining sessions or other comments regarding the nurses return to work.

Pictured at top: Striking nurses return to work at East Liverpool City Hospital.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.