Nurses bargaining for a new contract with their current employer, Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH) voted at the end of last week to authorize their bargaining committee to conduct a strike or another form of concerted activity if they are unable to reach an agreement. The nearly 1,500 nurses from Jersey Shore University Medical Center (JSUMC) and Southern Ocean Medical Center (SOMC) are represented by HPAE, NJ’s largest health care union. The current contract expires in a week on July 31.
“At one time we were a part of a community hospital, caring for our family members, neighbors and friends. As nurses, working in a large healthcare corporation, we are engaging our communities to join our efforts to make sure patient care comes first at Hackensack Meridian facilities,” said Sally Fessler, RN and President of HPAE Local 5138 at SOCM.
Across Monmouth and Ocean County nurses are meeting with community members, with a roaming billboard driving through the region to raise awareness (photos are attached). In prior negotiations the nurses were employed by Meridian Health System which merged with Hackensack Health System in 2016. As the newly formed HMH, the corporation reported earning $218.9 million in its first six months of operation.
“Patients deserve to have enough healthcare staff to take care of them when they need us. Hackensack Meridian has a choice to make patient care a priority over profits,” said Kendra McCann, RN and President of HPAE Local 5058 at JSUMC.
Major issues, according to the union members, are the establishment of legally binding staff-to-patient ratios for all units; improvements to the health insurance coverage including lower out of pocket costs and greater access to healthcare providers, and stronger protections for workers’ rights.
Bargaining will continue through July 31.
HPAE is the largest union of registered nurses and health care professionals in New Jersey. Since its founding by Englewood Hospital nurses in 1974, HPAE has expanded across the state and into Southeastern Pennsylvania representing 13,000 nurses, social workers, therapists, technicians, medical researchers, and other health care professionals in hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies, blood banks, and university research facilities. HPAE is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO.
For more information, contact Bridget Devane at (732) 996-5493