FORUM HEALTH Lawmakers urge nurses, company to settle dispute
Both sides say they're willing to bargain nonstop when talks resume Thursday.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A delegation of northeast Ohio lawmakers is pressing for Forum Health and its striking nurses to work for a quick settlement to their 2-month-old labor dispute, warning the walkout is "casting a shadow" on the Mahoning Valley.
The group, Northeast Ohio Legislative Delegation, offered its assistance to both sides in a letter mailed late last week to the hospital management and to the 771-member Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association.
Talks will resume Thursday to resolve the dispute, said Forum spokeswoman Evonne Woloshyn. The registered nurses walked out May 1 and marked the two-month anniversary of the strike Sunday with a rally after which two people were arrested and charged with minor altercations.
Spokesman's comments: "What we're trying to do is change the perception of our Valley statewide, and obviously this strike is going to be perceived as a negative," said state Rep. John Boccieri of New Middletown, D-57th, group spokesman.
"We understand that government is not the answer to every dispute, and we understand the complexities of the issues, but we want to see this dispute settled for the sake of the Valley and for the sake of what we're trying to do in Columbus."
He said the lawmakers are willing to appoint representatives to act as mediators in the talks. That proposal followed a similar suggestion by Youngstown Mayor George McKelvey, who proposed last week that the two sides seek the mediation assistance of U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. of Poland, D-17th.
Boccieri said the state lawmakers "don't want to get in a turf war" with the congressman and would be just as happy if he was permitted to intervene in the talks. "We just want us to all be unified and we want these clouds to pass from the Valley," he said.
Reactions to interest: Woloshyn said the Forum board of trustees appreciates the interest expressed by community leaders. "All ideas and options are being considered and explored," she said. "As one of the Mahoning Valley's largest employers, we know that an end to this dispute is in the best interest of everyone involved."
She said the hospital bargaining team will be prepared to negotiate round-the-clock when the talks resume this week.
"It is time for reasonable people to settle these issues in the best interest of Forum Health, our nurses and this community," Woloshyn said.
Nurses association president Bonnie Lambert said the nurses appreciate the public officials' concern but will continue to work with the federal mediator "unless everything falls apart."
She said the nurses also are willing to bargain round-the-clock. "That's what we've been wanting to do for a long time," she said.
The Northeast Ohio Legislative Delegation is: Reps. Boccieri; Anthony Latell Jr., of Girard, D-67th; Tim Ryan of Niles, D-32nd; Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd; Sylvester Patton of Youngstown, D-64th; Ken Carano of Austintown, D-65th; Dan Sferra of Warren, D-66th; Tim Grendell of Chesterland, D-68th; Charles Blasdel of East Liverpool, R-3rd; and Greg DiDonato of Dennison, D-30th.