FORUM NURSES STRIKE Mayor again urges asking Traficant to mediate
THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN
The mayor said several nurses have told him they favor the congressman's intervention.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Citing what he calls "70 days of failure" in contract talks between Forum Health and its striking registered nurses, Mayor George McKelvey is again urging the two sides to seek mediation assistance of Rep. James Traficant Jr.
The Youngstown mayor first suggested calling in Traficant 10 days ago as the strike by Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association entered its 60th day. Officials for Forum and the YGDNA both said then that they would rely on their negotiating teams and the collective bargaining process.
"Each side has expressed confidence in their bargaining teams, but confidence is generally determined by achieving some degree of success," McKelvey said.
"I've seen only failure for 70 days. At what point will the hospital and the nurses be willing to bring in someone to help mediate? Why do we wait? Do we wait for 100 days? The bottom line is, the future of these facilities in this Valley."
The mayor said he's received several calls from striking YGDNA nurses who favor bringing Traficant in to assist.
Union's response: Bonnie Lambert, YGDNA president, disputed the mayor's claim that no progress has been made.
"He doesn't know what's going on in our negotiations, and we have made some small steps in the meetings," she said.
"I think he and Traficant are being very pushy. At this point, we're not in agreement [with Forum], and we're not interested in having something shoved down our throats that's not acceptable to us."
Lambert said the YGDNA team is willing to stay at the bargaining table around the clock, if necessary, to reach an agreement.
She said Forum negotiators walked away last Friday, ending two days and 17 hours of talks. "I keep saying, you can't act like little children and take your toys and go home," she said.
Forum spokeswoman Evonne Woloshyn could not be reached to comment.
What Traficant said: Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, has said he is willing to mediate the talks, but only if both sides request his involvement. The congressman has helped negotiate settlements in several area labor disputes, including the RMI Titanium and Superior Beverage walkouts.
McKelvey said he fears that Forum Health, Mahoning County's second-largest employer, could be forced to close Northside Medical Center and Tod Children's Hospital if the 771 members of YGDNA continue their walkout much longer. Some parts of Forum's Beeghly Medical Park in Boardman are also affected.
"You always hear a good deal of discussion, and even fear, about what would happen if General Motors closed here -- and it looks like that's not going to happen," the mayor said.
"But what people need to realize is that the effects on the city of Youngstown would be just as devastating if Forum closed its hospitals here."
He said Forum employs 3,000 at the Northside and Tod facilities, with an annual payroll of $81 million, and about 2,100 spinoff jobs, with an additional spinoff payroll of $75 million.
The YGDNA walked out May 1.