NEW YORK NURSE: July/August 2008
Chalk one up for staying power. After nearly three years of struggle, RNs at the Westchester County Healthcare Corporation (WCHCC) have a fair contract.
“Westchester nurses told management all along that they would hold out for as long as possible,” said Sandy Owen, NYSNA release time representative. “They were true to their word.”
Public-sector negotiations can be lengthy because the state’s Taylor Law prohibits public employees from striking. Some public employers take advantage of this ban by dragging their feet during negotiations in an attempt to wear union members down. But the WCHCC RNs fought back – holding rallies, meeting with elected officials, filing lawsuits and unfair labor practice charges, pressuring the board of directors, and sponsoring an intense advertising campaign.
Their efforts bore fruit in May, when the medical center’s CEO was named local “businessman of the year.” The nurses informed management that they planned to demonstrate outside of the black-tie gala where he was to receive the award. A settlement came shortly thereafter.
The new five-year contract continues to provide a defined benefit plan for new hires. RNs hired before Jan. 1, 2007, are required to work five years to be eligible, those hired after that date will have to work 20 years. This is a “middle ground” that extends the eligibility requirement but guarantees that the benefit cannot be changed without the agreement of the union.
Other contract highlights:
The agreement is retroactive to April 2006 and runs through March 2011.
“The nurses’ three-year escalating campaign centered on uniting the bargaining unit and using every lever to pressure management,” said Kevin Smith, NYSNA nursing representative. “And it worked like a charm in both respects.”