By David Skolnick
and WILLIAM K. ALCORN
Registered nurses at Northside Medical Center overwhelmingly voted to reauthorize its union negotiating committee to call a strike against the hospital, if necessary.
Members of the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association, which represents about 485 RNs at ValleyCare Northside, voted during three meetings Wednesday. The meetings were conducted at 8 a.m. and 4 and 8 p.m. at Teamsters
Local 377 Hall at 1223 Teamster Drive.
“We just want to get back to the [bargaining] table,” said Minh Nguyen, a nurses union spokesman.
The hospital is part of ValleyCare Health System of Ohio, which is owned by Community Health
Trish Hrina, vice president of marketing and public relations for ValleyCare, declined Wednesday to comment to The Vindicator about the strike-authorization vote.
Northside nurses conducted a one-day strike
Sept. 24 and upon returning to the hospital were locked out for varying periods of time ranging from 72 hours to Tuesday, when the last one returned to work.
YGDNA’s by-laws require that a new strike authorization vote be conducted when there is a possibility of a strike, said Nguyen, a representative of the American Federation of Teachers. The AFT is the national affiliate of the Ohio Nurses Association (ONA), the statewide union that is the official bargaining agent for the Northside nurses.
The ONA issued the Sept. 24
strike notice Sept. 12, the day after the last negotiating session. Despite some progress, four hours of negotiating on Sept. 11 failed to produce an agreement, Nguyen said.
Last month, YGDNA members overwhelmingly rejected the most recent
offer from CHS executives and Northside management.
Even after all the activity the last week, the hospital is still refusing to negotiate, Nguyen said.
“We feel we’re very close to an agreement,” he said. “There’s zero response [from ValleyCare] and we don’t know why. They walked away from the table.”
It has not been decided if and when a new 10-day strike notice would be delivered to Northside, Nguyen said.
The YGDNA says its major issues preventing it from
approving the hospital’s final offer revolve around staffing and the lack of specific language in the offer giving nurses an unfettered voice in patient care, as did their previous contract, which
expired July 19, 2012.
Despite the union’s claims, there is nothing in the hospital’s final offer that would inhibit a nurse’s ability to execute the professional responsibility to his or her
patients, Hrina said.