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Strike ends, wounds remain



Published: Fri, May 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



An HMHP spokesman said the situation should be better once workers are back on the job.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The picket signs have been put away at St. Elizabeth Health Center and other Humility of Mary Health Partners facilities, but the bandages remain.

Service and maintenance workers for HMHP ended their 12-day-old strike Thursday night by approving a three-year contract. Throughout the strike many workers wore a bandage on their shirts as sign of unity.

After announcing that the agreement had been approved, Chris Colello, the president of Teamsters Local 377, said that workers will wear two bandages on their shirts. Colello said that the bandages will be a show of support for two men who were arrested while on the picket line.

The Teamsters represent the 870 workers who were on strike.

Workers' views: Yet the bandages also show that some workers feel their relationship with HMHP has been wounded. And according to those workers, the wounds have yet to heal.

"They did a lot of damage to us," said Yolanda Oliver, a Youngstown resident who works at St. Elizabeth's. Another St. Elizabeth's employee, Walter Ransaw, added, "Some wounds will never heal."

Gary Zublena, a Youngstown resident who works as a maintenance painter at St. Elizabeth's, was more optimistic.

"Time heals all wounds," Zublena said, adding, however, that "it's going to take a lot of time."

Upset over arrests: The workers feel that HMHP officials showed little respect for them during the strike, which began May 12. In addition, the workers are angry over the arrests of Richard Hollis, of Parkcliffe Drive, and Ray DePasquale, of Scott Street.

Police say Hollis hit a hospital peace officer in the face and tried to elude arrest May 15. They also say that DePasquale pushed and threatened a hospital peace officer May 12.

Colello said that HMHP could improve its relationship with workers by not pursuing the charges against Hollis and DePasquale. However, HMHP Spokesman Chris McCarty said that his company has zero tolerance for violence or intimidation on the picket lines.

"That's a non-negotiable point," he said.

McCarty added that he feels the relationship will heal once the workers are back on the job. The earliest a worker could be back on the job is 3 p.m. today, he said.

Reaction to contract: Despite the concern over their relationship with HMHP, most workers said they will be happy to be back on the job. The workers also said that they are pleased with the contract agreement, which was approved by a 592-31 margin during two voting sessions Thursday at the Teamsters' union hall.

Under the agreement, changes will be made to several sections in the Teamsters' contract with HMHP, including the sections on wages, mandatory overtime, and vacation time. The Teamsters have said the agreement addresses the 10 issues they needed to work out with HMHP before the strike would end.

The agreement was reached Tuesday night after eight hours of talks Tuesday and 12 hours of talks Monday. George Snyder, a member of the Teamsters' negotiating team, called the talks grueling.

"They were the hardest group of people I ever had to deal with in my life," Snyder said.

Molly Seals, a negotiator for HMHP, said she felt the talks were conducted in a "very positive atmosphere."

Seals said the talks began each day with a prayer. She said that when the talks got heated, HMHP negotiators tried to stress that the dispute over the contract was business and not personal.

In the end, both McCarty and Seals said they feel the agreement was fair to the Teamsters and HMHP.

"I think that both sides did their respective organizations well," McCarty said.

hill@vindy.com




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