Labor Day 2018 Message from HPAE President Ann Twomey: Healthcare Workers on the Line: Labor Day and a New Wave of Union Activism

“When nurses and health professionals are out on a picket line instead of by the bedside, it’s because something’s not right inside.”

On Labor Day we stop to rest and recognize the achievements of every worker. In healthcare, Labor Day is another working day for most of us, and as bedside nurses and health professionals, we continue to provide care and treatment for our patients. We are proud of the work health professionals do, but we are also proud of the actions they take to protect their patients’ safety and the rights’ of every healthcare worker who is standing up to the corporatization of healthcare.

What motivates health professionals to take action? Whether that involves filling out an incident report or standing on a picket line?

It takes chronic short staffing that leaves patient care compromised. It takes a management that sets staffing levels based on budget lines rather than on patient needs. And it takes a constant lack of respect for the voices of nurses and health professionals who are on the frontlines of care every day.

Across the nation and in our own region, health professionals are fighting for contracts and laws that set safe patient limits, so that all patients, in every hospital, have the care they need and deserve. In addition, they are demanding protections against anti-union tactics meant to intimidate employees. Workers are standing up to say this is unacceptable. As a union of 13,000 members, we must stand together to denounce these tactics in every form. And we are!

On August 15th, nearly 1,000 health professionals and community members conducted a one-day informational picket outside of NJ’s largest healthcare corporation, Hackensack Meridian Health as we negotiate contracts at four facilities throughout the state.

This summer, hundreds have sent messages to Governor Murphy and the Legislature to protest the closure of Pediatrics at University Hospital and call for protections of our state’s only public hospital. Shortly after healthcare workers and the community gathered with Mayor Baraka in Newark to learn more from UH administrators, the Governor announced he will appoint an independent monitor to oversee University Hospital and, for now, Pediatrics will remain open at the hospital.

After the Supreme Court, in Janus v AFSCME, overruled decades of precedent in a case designed to weaken unions, thousands of public sector HPAE members have said we are sticking with the union, because we know, “We All Win, When We’re All In!”  As members of HPAE, we have a voice to advocate for ourselves, our patients, and our communities.

Earlier this year, thousands of HPAE members across the state voted to ratify new contracts with the Visiting Nurse Association, CarePoint Health, Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, Hudson Regional Hospital, The Wanaque Center, and University Hospital, maintaining protections and improving wages for thousands of health professionals. Thousands more HPAE members continue to mobilize for fair contracts at Hackensack-Meridian, Cornerstone Behavioral Health, American Red Cross, Salem Memorial Hospital, Rowan University and Rutgers University, while others are gearing up for new contracts next year at New Bridge Medical Center and Inspira Health.

Nurses and health professionals are, quite frankly, fed up—not only with chronic short-staffing but with having their voices ignored by hospital management. That’s why healthcare workers are continuing to join and support their unions, why they are taking more serious public actions, and why our union and unions across the country are leading the way to safety.

As we care for our patients and communities, we will continue to speak out for what we need to provide that care: enough nurses and staff; respect for our work, our experience and our voice; and hospital policies that help recruit and retain the most qualified staff.

In Solidarity,

Ann Twomey
HPAE President