Press Release

Nurses Welcome D.C. Council Members’ Support

For Immediate Release
February 24, 2011

New Unfair Labor Practice Charges Filed Against Washington Hospital Center

National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses, today praised 10 members of the District of Columbia City Council for pressing Washington Hospital Center to settle its ongoing labor dispute.
The RNs have called a one-day strike for Friday, March 4 with the hospital threatening a lockout that would prolong the dispute. Negotiations are scheduled to resume tomorrow.
In a letter to hospital president John Sullivan sent today, the council members wrote, “We are deeply concerned that the dispute between the Washington Hospital Center and National Nurses United continues without resolution.”
The letter cites the nurses’ concern about safe staffing, the lack of respect shown by managerial staff to the nurses, and the hospital administration’s attempt to rescind the nurses’ hard-won economic gains.  “These issues of course have an impact on the hospital’s ability to attract and retain qualified and experienced nurses,” the council members wrote.  “It was disturbing to hear that the turnover rate of nurses at the hospital has exceeded 13% annually for the past six years.”
The council members stated that they “appreciate the hard work and dedication of the staff of the Washington Hospital Center,” and expressed their hope that hospital management would “be able to successfully resolve these concerns to the mutual satisfaction of all concerned.”
Council Member Harry “Tommy” Thomas, Jr., in whose ward the hospital resides, led the effort. Other council members who signed the letter included Michael A. Brown, Sekou Biddle, Marion Barry, Yvette Alexander, Tommy Wells, Phil Mendelson, Jim Graham, Muriel Bowser, and Kwame R. Brown.
“We are very pleased that the council members expressed their concern to hospital management,” said Joe Cassidy, an ER nurse at Washington Hospital Center.  “Management’s continued attack on nursing standards and its failure to address our patient safety concerns are being noticed throughout the community and we are grateful that the political leadership of this city is willing to hold MedStar Health accountable.”
“I applaud Council Member Thomas for taking the initiative on this important issue affecting the healthcare of so many district residents,” said Cassidy.
Additionally, NNU has filed new charges with the federal labor board alleging additional hospital violations of federal labor laws.  
The charge states that on multiple occasions, Washington Hospital Center blocked union access to NNU members in the hospital, spied on, threatened, and interfered with the union and its members, engaged in bad-faith bargaining with the union, discriminated against a union member to discourage her active participation and membership in the union, and improperly ceased dues check-off for the nurses. Charges previously filed by the union against the hospital are still pending before the NLRB.
Some 1,650 Washington Hospital Center RNs are represented by National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union and professional association of nurses.

In addition to patient care concerns, WHC RNs also object to attempts to cut nurses’ pay and benefits, and charge that the company violated federal labor law in implementing cuts in workplace and economic standards.

The hospital is owned by the MedStar Health chain whose policies, the nurses say, have eroded patient care conditions, and have prompted an exodus of hundreds of experienced RNs from Washington Hospital Center, further undercutting care standards.

WHC RNs have been without a contract since last June. NNU has represented the nurses since last October.

NNU was founded in 2009 by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, United American Nurses, and Massachusetts Nurses Association.