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Nurses Ratify New Contract at Washington Hospital Center

Press Release Press Release, 5/9/11

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New Agreement Makes Advances on Patient Care, Wages and Wins Back Fired Nurses’ Jobs
 
WASHINGTON, DC—National Nurses United announced today that Registered Nurses at Washington Hospital Center voted Friday and Saturday to ratify a new contract with their employer.
 
The new agreement, which covers 1,650 RNs in Washington’s largest hospital, includes a new staffing matrix that will increase the number of nurses at the bedside and a new Professional Practice Committee to address and solve issues pertaining to patient care and staffing issues.  The new contract requires hospital managers to meet with the nurse committee on a regular basis and respond to proposals to improve patient care at the facility.  The nurses raised patient safety as a significant issue in contract negotiations.
 
The new agreement raises most nurses’ hourly base rate wages between 8.5% and 9.0% over three and a half years.  It also restores the differential pay for nurses who work evenings, nights, and weekends to pre-March 2011 levels for 30 months of the 42-month agreement.
 
The agreement also includes a return to work for eight nurses fired during the back-to-back snow storms in February 2010.  Another nurse whose firing the union claimed was unjust was also returned to work as part of the agreement.  Previously, the union won back the jobs of the ten other nurses who were fired following the snow storm.
 
“As the ratification vote shows, nurses are pleased with what we were able to achieve in this agreement, which is superior to what management previously imposed on us,” said Emma Bioc, a nurse at Washington Hospital Center and union bargaining committee member.  “This was a long and difficult struggle.  I am proud that the nurses stood in solidarity with each other and for our patients.  This contract respects our professional practice, our expertise and dedication.”
 
“I am so glad that those of us who were unjustly fired after the snow storm have won our jobs back,” added Linda Buckman, a 31-year nurse who was fired after the storm.  “It is only because we have a strong union that my co-workers and I are able to return to work with dignity and care for our patients.”
 
Contract negotiations at the hospital began in March 2010 between the nurses, then represented by an independent union, Nurses United of the National Capitol Region, and the hospital.  On October 6, 2010, the nurses voted overwhelmingly to unify with National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses.  The hospital had refused to recognize NNU as the nurses’ collective bargaining representative until a threatened strike on November 24, 2010.  Negotiations commenced again in December.     After negotiations failed to reach a settlement, the nurses struck on March 4, 2011 after which the hospital locked out the nurses for four additional days.  The nurses were planning an informational picket at the hospital on May 6 but cancelled it when they reached a tentative agreement with the hospital on May 3.
 
NNU, representing 160,000 RNs nationwide, was founded in 2009 by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, United American Nurses, and Massachusetts Nurses Association.

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