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"Get More Nurses"
by gwen Friday, Sep. 10, 2004 at 12:29 PM

Nurses at UPMC-Western Psychiatric stage the first strike known to the UPMC system for three days this weekend (Friday through Sunday) in an effort to get better compensation packages so that they can attract more nurses.

"Get More Nurse...
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The strikers have a friendly atmosphere, offering each other, and even reporters, support and cookies (oatmeal or chocolate chip). But their message is grim, the patients at Western Psychiatric are not getting the care they need because of not enough nursing staff. Loyal nurses to the institution are concerned that when they retire, they will not be replaced. This is all due to substandard packages offered new nurses, and an administration that prefers to hand themselves raises than giving their nurses competitive salaries.

At the present time, the nurses at UPMC are paid "significantly less than our colleagues at area hospitals," according to Susan Forejt, RN, a nurse who has been with Western Psych for the past few years. She commented that psychiatric nursing is a difficult field to recruit new nurses for in the first place, and the salary deficiency is just making it more difficult. At the present time, there is a 21% vacancy rate in the nursing staff at Western Psych, this is three times the vacancy rate at other area hospitals. Nurses at Western Psych work an average of 3 weeks of overtime a year in order to compensate for the vacancy.

The nursing union agreed to a wage freeze in the late 90's when the hospital was not doing as well. The contract that was made from that bargain expired on June 30th, but the administration was unwilling to bargain with the nursing union despite requests starting in late April or early May. The administration did agree to negotiations as of late July, but have stalemated in the past 9 weeks. The union is asking for a 10% wage increase, but the administration originally offered 0% and are now standing firm on 3%. This is an offer the nursing union will not accept when Western Psych has turned a profit of over $4.5 million in the past three years, and has given their administration $1 raises just yesterday (September 9, 2004).

Donna, who preferred to not give her last name, has been working for Western Psych for the past 27 years. She has been uneligible for a raise for 11 years, because of a rule that no one gets a raise after 16 years of employment. However, she is on strike so that she can see more nurses hired, and know that she can be replaced. For Donna, it's about "making it so that new nurses come here and stay."

Also, she complained that "we can't do what we need to do." She commented that normally a psychiatric nurse has the advantage of taking time to take care of the patients, by giving them extra bedding, or other extra attention they might need. However, the nursing staff is so stretched, they don't have time to do anything other than the basics for the patients. Donna complained that this makes for less care for her patients.

Her mother, Jane Krause, also worked for Western Psych as a registered nurse before her retirement. Jane spoke of a time when working for Western Psych was a real treat, and they could donate a lot of time to the care of the patients. But "times have changed," and the nurses just don't have enough time to take this amount of care anymore. Jane is also supporting in the nurses strike to support the nurses, despite having no personal stakes involved.

"We're on strike for our own patients," Forejt commented. The nurses just want to make sure that their patients continue to be given the best care possible, keeping with their rank in the top 10 of nationwide hospitals (the only UPMC hospital with that high of a ranking). They want a more competitive salary package not for themselves, but so that new nurses can be more readily hired and kept on staff. But most of all, they need more nurses so that they aren't stretched so thinly. As Donna commented, "Psychiatric nursing is normally a wonderful specialty, you get to watch patients recover. Right now, it's about just getting the basics done."

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In front of Western Psych
by gwen Friday, Sep. 10, 2004 at 12:29 PM

In front of Western ...
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The strike is a line in front of Western Psych, greeting drivers as they pass by.

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Donna and Jane
by gwen Friday, Sep. 10, 2004 at 12:29 PM

Donna and Jane...
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This is Donna and her mother Jane. Donna will be retiring soon, and Jane has already retired. Both have worked at Western Psych, and are supporting their fellow nurses.

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Administrative guy or security?
by gwen Friday, Sep. 10, 2004 at 12:29 PM

Administrative guy o...
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This guy was on his cell phone just around the corner from the strike, frequently looking around the corner to keep his eye on the strikers.

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Giving out pamphlets.
by gwen Friday, Sep. 10, 2004 at 12:29 PM

Giving out pamphlets...
wpsychstrike_008_dce.jpg, image/jpeg, 448x600

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by gwen Friday, Sep. 10, 2004 at 12:29 PM

wpsychstrike_003_dce.jpg, image/jpeg, 600x448

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Nader Visits Strikers
by W. O. Blee Sunday, Sep. 12, 2004 at 4:00 AM

Last night at around midnight, presidential candidate Ralph Nader visited the striking nurses, along with some Green Party supporters and other labor activists. The SEIU officer "in charge" was none too pleased when some of the workers wanted to take a photo with Nader as the SEIU has been pumping millions into Kerry's campaign. Workers were told it was "devisive" to have their picture taken as a group. (Was it not divisive to have the SEIU back Kerry?) Many there, including at least one striker, spoke-up to the SEIU piecard to tell him that it is the members who run the union. The SEIU official, Neal Bisno, got right up in Nader's face, and many felt that some form of violence might occur, stepping behind Nader to offer support. No blows were thrown by the SEIU, though Nader offered a parting blow to the SEIU, stating to the workers: "check out the California Nurses Association -- they don't sign sweetheart contracts." Stay tuned for more on this incident...

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SEIU is a contracted negotiator
by X Sunday, Sep. 12, 2004 at 8:55 AM

So, the union representing these workers has contracted-out negotiations to SEIU -- this is getting more interesting...
Western Psych nurses plan strike

By Luis Fabregas
Thursday, September 9, 2004

Unionized nurses at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic plan to strike Friday in what would be the first walkout by workers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center since 1978.
The decision to strike came late Wednesday, following six weeks of what nurse leaders called frustrating and often tearful negotiations with UPMC over raises.

"They have given us no choice," said Kathy Lind, chief steward for the union, New Jersey-based JNESO. "I don't think anything can stop us."

Lind, of Bethel Park and a Western Psych registered nurse for more than 20 years, said nurses will walk out at 7 a.m. Friday through 7 a.m. Monday. They chose the three-day walkout instead of an indefinite strike to avoid compromising patient care. Union officials notified UPMC last week of their intent to strike.

UPMC spokeswoman Jane Duffield said patient care will go uninterrupted at Western Psych, the network's specialty hospital for mental health and addictive disorders. Duffield said not all Western Psych workers are unionized and they would be able to pick up the duties of striking nurses.

"If there is a strike, family members and patients needn't be worried about their care," Duffield said.

The two sides are at odds over pay raises for about 106 registered nurses who work at Western Psych, in Oakland across from UPMC Presbyterian hospital. The nurses are seeking 4 percent raises and said UPMC is willing to give them only 3 percent. The nurses initially asked for 6.25 percent, but came down at the bargaining table.

The nurses also are looking to add a step on the pay scale for nurses who have worked over 16 years.

Nurses and union officials said documents provided by UPMC during negotiations show Western Psych posted a profit over the past three years. Duffield declined to comment on the hospital's profitability.

Neal Bisno, a vice president with District 1199P/Service Employees International Union, said nurses' wages at Western Psych have increased only 2 percent over the past two years. Union officials did not release the average pay scale, but said an entry-level nurse makes about $18.05 an hour. The SEIU has been contracted by JNESO to handle negotiations for the contract, which expires in June.

Lois Cusick, a registered nurse who is the local union's president, said the decision to strike was not easy.

"We did everything we could, and we put forth our best effort," she said. "We're very demoralized."

She said she fears patient care will be affected and has been told that appointments have been canceled for Friday for outpatients who get a specialized type of shock treatment known as electroconvulsive therapy.

Luis Fabregas can be reached at or (412) 320-7998.

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JNESO - The Union Involved
by Rankin Phile Sunday, Sep. 12, 2004 at 9:01 AM

"Recognizing the necessity of all health care employees combining to improve their working conditions, this organization will endeavor by all lawful and honest methods to unite all health care employees for their own advancement and betterment, and for the advancement of nursing and health professions without regard to race, creed, color, sex, religion, age, national origin, physical handicap, or sexual orientation."

JNESO District Council 1,


Brief History

JNESO began in 1958 as the Jersey Nurses Economic Seccurity Organization, a euphemism for the Union Division of the State Nurses Association.

In 1985, The JNESO membership voted to leave the State Association as an independent union, officially changed its name to JNESO. Since then, JNESO has expanded its membership base to includeother professional and technical employees in the health care field. It has also extended its sphere of influence to other states.

1992 brought affiliation with the twelfth (12th) largest international in the AFL-CIO, the International Union of Operating Engineers. As the first health care union ever affiliated with the giant international, JNESO has been chartered as a Disttrict Council. The IUOE connection has enable JNESO to continue its slow, steady growth a a a major player in health care while maintaining the autonomy and selfdirection demanded by our independent mided memership.

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Nader visits the Strike
by hal Smith Sunday, Sep. 26, 2004 at 12:24 AM

Hal Smith
University of Pittsburgh College student

Ralph Nader and the WPIC Nurses' Strike

America is no longer a democracy- it is ruled by 2 parties who represent corporations, not people, Nader told a packed audience at the Unitarian church in Shadyside this September 11. He said that in the last 4 years in California, only one incumbent representative lost his office- Gary Condit after a major scandal. Most Americans want a national health plan, but it hasn't been enacted for 50 years. Most Americans opposed the invasion of Iraq, but the Congress endorsed it. And George Bush lost the 2000 election, but the Supreme Court appointed him President. "Bush is really a corporation posing as a human being."

But the Democratic party has become corporatized too. "No wonder so many people lose interest in politics! Bush has made so many horrible mistakes, Kerry should be wiping this guy out. Instead he adopted his platforms."

"Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich's campaigns shows what is expected of a loyal liberal Democrat. Kucinich had a good platform, like starting a Department of Peace, but when he got to the convention, he was told to support Kerry and in return he got nothing. None of his ideas were accepted. Antiwar signs were taken from delegates."

But looking around the church, Nader mentioned that "altogether the Unitarians and Quakers have only 300,000 members. They show what good a small but dedicated minority can do." And even with all the corporate control over politicians and the media, "there is nothing like the power of an informed and mobilized citizenry."

Nader had some interesting answers to questions. "I have a hard decision because I think Kerry is better than Bush, so what should I do?," one man asked. "

Nader replied that "Pennsylvania is a swing state, so you might want to look at the polls the day before. But independent voters in states like Texas and Massachusetts have no excuse for voting for the "lesser evil." Of course I believe that if everyone voted by their conscience we wouldn't have this problem. As the American Socialist Eugene Debs said in the 1900's, 'I would rather vote for something I wanted and not get it, than vote for something I didn't want and get it.'"

Afterwards Nader went to a strike by the nurses at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Oakland. Richard Ressler, the vice-president of the nurse's union, told me that "The hospital managers live off corporate greed have the public bamboozled about hospitals. The hospital business is a big corporation, not a humanitarian service. They put profits before people and have a sorry attitude towards the workers. Their contract negotiator even bragged about the money they were making."

"Quality care is not profits for the hospital. Their bottom line is how to spare a buck. For the past ten years they've been firing a lot of people. Management is replacing nurses with little tasks, but it didn’t make things efficient."

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "UPMC-Presbyterian -- the unit to which Western Psychiatric belongs -- reported a $112 million profit last year."(1) Lois Cusick, the president of the nurses' union said that "The psychiatric nurses get paid 10 percent less than all the other hospitals' [nurses]."(2) And an article at the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center reported a vacancy level of 21% for nurses at WPIC, 3 times higher than the regional average. "Nurses at Western Psych work an average of 3 weeks of overtime a year in order to compensate for the vacancy," it said.(3)

The hospitol management's final offer at negotiations was a 3% wage raise. The nurses rejected the contract by a 97% margin. They went on strike and demanded a 4% wage raise. They also demanded incentives to retain nurses, and higher wages for nurses with more than 20 years of experience, the Pittsburgh Business Times reported.(4)

When Nader came to the rally, Ressler was happily surprised "I was dazzled that this guy would come out here after driving all around the country. He had a little car and it looked cramped. He is a man of the people, not a big shot. As busy as Nader is, he drove to meet 11 people without any coverage. He was there in support of us."

"The nurses were very happy Nader came; People came out and they thought it was just some guy talking. But then they saw it was Nader and more came out. He said that the California nurses' union was very large and they're growing. It was a good organizing cheer on. He also talked about the horrors of managed care, their disrespect to patients and nurses, and the importance of a national health care plan. I was extremely impressed."

(1) "Nurses Warn of Strike,"
(2) Andy Medici, "WPIC Nurses to Strike if Raises Don't Come"
(3) "Get More Nurses"
(4) Lynne Glover, "Western Psych Nurses Threaten to strike."

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