HOSPITAL STRIKES 'This is all-out war,' HMHP Teamster says
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A Teamsters organizer said his union is stepping up the pressure against Humility of Mary Health Partners.
"This is all-out war," said union spokesman Rick Kepler, adding that the Teamsters intend to picket not only St. Elizabeth Health Center, but also all of its satellite locations where Teamsters work, during the hours they're open. "This might be an attempt at union busting, and, if it is, then we've got to up the ante. In our guts, we feel this might be an attempt at absolute permanent replacement," he said.
The strikers also intend to pass out informational leaflets at Assumption Village and Humility House nursing homes, the St. Elizabeth Boardman Campus, and St. Joseph Health Center in Warren. All of these facilities belong to Humility of Mary Health Partners.
Radio show: The union also has bought time for a two-hour call-in program on WKTX at 830 on the AM dial from 9 to 11 a.m. Fridays for 13 weeks beginning this Friday, Kepler said.
Striking Forum Health nurses joined Teamsters on the picket lines at St. Elizabeth's on Tuesday, and in exchange, striking Teamsters will join the nurses on their picket line for a rally at Forum Health Northside Medical Center from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, Kepler said.
Forum's 771 registered nurses at Northside and Beeghly Medical Park, who belong to the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, have been on strike since May 1, and the 870 service and maintenance workers belonging to Teamsters Local 377 have been on strike at St. Elizabeth's and some of its satellite facilities since Saturday afternoon.
No new negotiations are scheduled in either dispute.
Teamsters also will invite members of the HMHP board of trustees to a meeting at Teamster hall on Teamster Drive in Youngstown to hear the union's point of view, and, if they don't show up, the union will picket their homes, he said.
Rally planning: Planning is also under way for a joint Teamsters and YGDNA "Health Care Workers Rally in the Valley," tentatively set for May 26 in Wick Park on the city's North Side, which would include a march past both St. Elizabeth's and Northside, he said.
Kepler made his comments after lawyers for HMHP and the Teamsters reached an agreement late Tuesday to limit the number of pickets after being urged to do so by Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge Maureen Cronin.
HMHP had sought an injunction from her to limit the union to a total of 15 pickets, three at each of five entrances, but after consultation with Judge Cronin in her chambers, the two sides agreed on a total of 52 pickets at the hospital and five at each satellite location.
Picketing agreement: Kepler said the union would file a motion to overturn the picketing agreement later this week with Judge Cronin. "We still believe it's too restrictive," Kepler explained.
HMHP issued a news release saying it sought limits on the number of pickets "to help improve safety and security for all patients, visitors, suppliers and employees."
The Lexington Avenue loading dock was the scene of a scuffle Tuesday morning between pickets and hospital police in which a picket said a hospital police officer pointed a gun at him and one picket was arrested.
Judge Cronin denied a union request to disarm the hospital police but ordered hospital police to stay on hospital property.
Kepler said Ken Norris, Teamster business agent, was hit in the chest and knocked to the ground by a delivery truck mirror Monday morning at St. Elizabeth's, but he refused medical treatment.
Kepler also accused the hospital of inviting a strike by putting proposals on the bargaining table it knew the union would never agree to, which were irrelevant to the main issues at hand.
He added that union truck drivers have been refusing to make deliveries to the hospital and construction workers walked off a hospital construction project for the duration of the strike.
At Forum Health: Meanwhile, Tuesday evening at Northside, striking nurses on the picket line yelled "Scabs go home" at a chartered bus carrying strike replacement nurses as it turned from Children's Drive near Forum Health Tod Children's Hopital onto Gypsy Lane to return the replacement nurses to their quarters at the Holiday Inn MetroPlex in Liberty.