NURSES STRIKE Limits put on Forum pickets
Nurses insist they've remained peaceful during their two months on the picket line.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A Forum Health executive said hospital officials had hoped to refrain from limiting the pickets of its striking registered nurses, but swelling numbers and "unlawful" behavior on the picket line Sunday changed their minds.
Attorneys for Forum and its striking Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association negotiated for several hours Tuesday to reach agreement on a temporary restraining order limiting the union to seven adult pickets at each entrance of Tod Children's Hospital and Northside Medical Center.
The terms: The pickets may not block any person entering the hospitals, and both sides must refrain from "threatening, harassing, intimidating, unlawfully touching or otherwise interfering" with those on the picket line, or those working or visiting in the hospital.
No limits were set for pickets at Beeghly Medical Park in Boardman.
Judge James C. Evans of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court approved the order and scheduled a hearing for 1:30 p.m. July 13 to consider a preliminary injunction. The order states it is "not an admission of wrongdoing" by either party.
Bonnie Lambert, YGDNA president, insisted the order is unnecessary. "We've been peaceful and we will continue to be peaceful," she said. "Why now? Why a restraining order now after two months when we've done nothing differently?"
Paul Carlson, senior vice president of human resources at Forum and a member of its negotiating team, agreed the nurses' conduct has been "mostly peaceful" until a rally Sunday marking the two-month anniversary of the strike.
The YGDNA, representing 771 registered nurses, walked out at Northside, Tod and Beeghly on May 1.
Arrests: Numbers on the picket lines swelled to more than 200 Sunday, according to an affidavit by Forum's director of safety and security, and two pickets were arrested.
"Activity that day was unlawful, and it was not isolated," Carlson said, alleging that strikers prevented ambulances from entering the hospital, harassed employees and prevented them from entering and leaving the hospital. "We concluded that this could reflect a change in behavior," he said.
Lambert declined to comment on the arrests and allegations.
Carlson said he doesn't expect the restraining order to have a negative impact upon the talks, which resume Thursday morning at an undisclosed location, because the two sides were able to reach a compromise without a court hearing. A federal mediator is working with the two sides.
YGDNA has called mandatory overtime the main issue in the dispute, but Carlson said there are many issues and all are tied together. He said economics, staffing and scheduling issues also remain on the table.