THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN
YOUNGSTOWN -- Forum Health's failure to settle with striking registered nurses is about breaking the union, not difficult negotiations, according to state Sen. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd.
Hagan is calling for a boycott of Forum facilities where the nurses are picketing and the hotels and motels housing an estimated 250 replacement workers, if the strike is not settled by Monday.
"I have sat back for six weeks and hoped they would settle this strike, but they have not moved off of square one," Hagan said during a press conference at the nurses' strike headquarters Thursday.
"It is up to Forum to settle this strike and if they don't, I am going to lead the charge in boycotting the hospital and lodging facilities where the replacement workers are staying. I'm giving them until the drop-dead date of Monday."
The Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, which represents 771 registered nurses at Forum's Northside Medical Center, Tod Children's Hospital and Beeghly Medical Center, have been on strike since May 1.
Response: Evonne Woloshyn, Forum Health spokeswoman, said the lawmaker should have met with hospital officials and gathered all the "relevant facts" before siding with the nurses. Hagan did not contact Forum leaders before making his announcement, she said.
"Senator Hagan's decision not to try and understand both sides of the issue is unfair to Forum Health and our 4,500 other unionized and nonrepresented employees currently on the job," Woloshyn said in a press release. "Senator Hagan needs to be reminded that those employees are also his constituents."
Hagan stressed that urging area residents to boycott Forum facilities if a settlement is not reached was his own idea. "The nurses haven't asked me to do this," he said. The boycott is important, he explained, to exert economic pressures on Forum.
Hagan's announcement came one day after leaders of several area labor unions announced plans for a Forum boycott. Participating unions include the Ohio Education Association, United Auto Workers Locals 1112 and 1714, Teamsters Local 377 and the Youngstown and Trumbull County units of AFL-CIO.
Rips replacements: The company Forum brought in to provide the replacement workers, Hagan said, "is in the business to supply scabs and is known for breaking unions." Hiring from outside the area, he continued, "hurts this community. Replacement workers are stealing the jobs of people in this community."
There are two reasons for a public official to become involved in labor disputes and negotiations, he said: If the official is invited to mediate, or if the dispute is impacting the community and the constituents the official serves.
The strike at Forum Health has a significant impact on the community, Hagan observed. Should Forum and the nurses choose to invite him to sit in on the discussions, Hagan said "I'd be glad to be a mediator."