Friday, April 25, 2014

We were supposed to meet today with St. Joe’s management to bargain our contract, but were forced yesterday to cancel because the hospital refused to release all of our bargaining team to attend. On Tuesday, an outspoken member of our bargaining team was told he would not be released to attend the next negotiating session.  We attempted to get St. Joe’s management to change its position, but they refused to release him even though they admitted they could.  To add insult to injury, when the member reported to work this morning, he was told he would be released for the day. Of course, by that time it was too late to reinstate the bargaining session.

Further, three members of the union’s bargaining team have been told by management that they are under investigation.

We believe this is retaliation for the increased, public pressure the union is putting on the hospital to commit to safe staffing. It constitutes illegal interference in the union and we are currently weighing our legal options.

We are eager to get a deal done.  But management thinks they can bully us.  We will continue to stand up for our patients and we will continue to stand up for each other. 
If they think they can bully us, they are wrong!

If they think we won’t stand together, they are wrong!

Tell hospital management to get serious and get back to the bargaining table!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nurses rally for safer staffing levels

Nurses demonstrate ahead of next contract session

JOLIET – More than a dozen union nurses gathered Tuesday at the intersection of Jefferson and Springfield streets in Joliet to promote what they said would be safer staffing levels at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center.

The nurses, part of the Illinois Nurses Association, are in contract negotiations with administrators at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center. Union members want the contract to include mandatory staffing levels that would fluctuate based on need and nurse-to-patient ratio.

The nurses gathered and waved to motorists during rush-hour traffic ahead of the next contract negotiations, which take place Friday.

“We are trying to have staffing ratios similar to the staffing ratios in California [hospitals],” said Pam Buckley, Presence Saint Joseph nurse.

Lisa Lagger, spokeswoman for Presence Saint Joseph, said mandated staffing ratios are unproven to have positively influenced patient outcomes on such factors as mortality rates, failure to rescue, hospital-acquired conditions and medication errors.

“We believe a far more effective approach is one where leaders and staff nurses work together to optimize unit level resources for the best and safest care for our patients,” she wrote in an email.

Mayor Thomas Giarrante attended Tuesday’s rally, noting he came after getting a call from a nurse. He said he supports the contract negotiations coming to an agreeable conclusion for both parties.

“It’s a two-way street,” he said. “Nurses need the hospital and the hospital need its nurses.”

Contract negotiations began in January. Earlier this month, union members rejected the hospital’s three-year contract offer that affects about 800 nurses.

Currently, the Joliet hospital has staffing level guidelines but those can be modified. 

Nurse Pat Meade said the staffing levels being sought would allow nurses to better serve patients.

“Patients come from the greater Joliet area because of the care we deliver,” she said. “We’re proud of that and we want to maintain that.”

Monday, April 21, 2014

Last week, management's chief spokesperson was on vacation, so they brought in a pinch hitter from the past, Terry Solom.  Unfortunately, the change in spokesperson didn't result in the hospital taking the issue of staffing any more seriously.  While the union urged management to spend the day discussing the staffing crisis, management suggested that "30 minutes" was sufficient.  Eventually, the union was able to get management to listen to the union for a whole hour, but couldn't get any dialog going regarding a new acuity tool or other safe staffing fixes.

Safe staffing isn't impossible to achieve, but it requires management taking the issue seriously.  INA has increased its outreach to the public on this vital issue and will continue to do so as long as the issue remains unresolved.

Bargaining continues on April 25.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Joliet nurses testify at hearing for state bill


JOLIET – Months into contract negotiations, union nurses and administrators at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center are still at odds, with a change to staffing ratios being the main sticking point.

The issue of nurse-to-patient staff ratios at the state level was the subject of a legislative hearing Wednesday in Chicago, where three Presence Saint Joseph nurses testified.

Representatives from the Illinois Nursing Association, Illinois Hospital Association and other groups also testified for or against House Bill 12, which would require hospitals to meet mandated nurse-to-patient ratios depending on the unit.

Victoria Hickey, a nurse at Presence St. Joseph, said she believes mandated patient-to-nurse ratios would improve patient care and the staff working environment.

“When a hospital is short-staffed, patient complications can happen,” she said. “A lot of times, that could be prevented with adequate staffing levels.”

She said the Joliet hospital’s intensive care unit typically has the adequate 2-to-1 patient-to-nurse ratio. But sometimes, because of staff breaks or other factors, one nurse could be handling three patients on his or her own at a time, Hickey said.

Currently, the Joliet hospital has staffing level guidelines, but those can be modified.

Officials from Presence Saint Joseph did not testify at the hearing. But hospital spokeswoman Lisa Lagger said, “Our patient care, our quality of care and our nursing care has repeatedly been recognized for its excellence.”

Danny Chun, spokesman for IHA, said such a mandate calls for a “rigid, static” formula that doesn’t allow for flexibility at the local level to set staffing to best match the needs of patients.

“If you don’t have enough nurses, you’d have to shut down the entire unit,” he said.
Presence Saint Joseph officials have previously said such mandated nurse-to-patient ratios, as seen in California, have not been proven to improve patient outcomes such as mortality rates and medication errors.

The issue at the local level picks up April 25 when union officials and hospital administration meet again at the bargaining table.

Both sides began bargaining in January. The last contract expired March 24.

Both sides also haven’t yet agreed on salary increases. Union officials want a 4 percent increase in pay per year over three years, while administrators are calling for a 2 percent increase.

L-R: Molly Chase, Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago), Lori Haggard, Vickey Hickey, Pam Buckley, INA Executive Director Alice Johnson

L-R: INA Executive Director Alice Johnson, Lori Haggard, Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston), Pam Buckley, Vicky Hickey, Molly Chase

Monday, April 14, 2014

The union and management have agreed to add an additional bargaining day for today, April 14. Management is bringing back Terry Solom, the chief spokesperson for the prior contracts. The union hopes that real progress will be made today.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Significant progress was made at the bargaining table yesterday.  Coming in the first bargaining session since the membership overwhelmingly rejected their proposals, management has withdrawn its proposal to eliminate EIB from the contract, dropped its push to replace HE with mandatory standby, and given up on its plan to add two additional tracked (unpaid) holidays. However, they are still trying to increase the amount of PTO you must use before you can use EIB and they still don't believe staffing is a problem worth serious attention.

The next negotiations session is scheduled for April 25.

Your voice is being heard!  We just need to get a little louder in order to get the fair contract that we and our patients deserve!  It is time to step up our activity!  Over the next two weeks, the Union will be asking for your help sending a message to Management.  It's time to answer the call!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Next week, INA members will testify before the Human Services Committee of the Illinois General Assembly in favor of safe staffing ratios.  The hearing will be held at the Michael A. Bilandic Building in Chicago at 2pm on Thursday, April 17.  Anyone interested in testifying or attending the hearing should send us an email at

Friday, April 4, 2014

Nurses at Presence Saint Joseph in Joliet strongly reject contract offer

Both sides say they are remaining optimistic

JOLIET – Nurses at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center this week overwhelming rejected a contract offer made by administration, but both sides remain optimistic that a compromise will be reached without a strike.

Union members voted 497 to 38 against the hospital’s three-year contract offer, which affects nearly 800 nurses at the hospital.

Both sides began bargaining in January. The last contract expired March 24.

A change in staffing policy has administrators and union officials butting heads at the bargaining table, said Tom Ellett, staff specialist with the Illinois Nurses Association, the union that represents nurses at Presence Saint Joseph.

Ellett said nurses want the contract to include mandatory staffing levels that would fluctuate based on need and nurse-to-patient ratio – similar to regulations seen more recently in some California hospitals.

“In large part, what we’re trying to ensure is that there’s sufficient staff able to provide the best level of care for patients,” Ellett said. “Personally, our members feel that their jobs are safer if there is sufficient staff. Then, they’re certainly not overworked and they don’t have to run themselves ragged.”

Currently, the hospital has staffing level guidelines, he said, but those can be modified.

Lisa Lagger, spokeswoman for the hospital, said such mandated ratios in California have not proven to improve patient outcomes such as mortality rates and medication errors.

Allowing both staff and administration to resolve staffing issues at the unit level “affords the Medical Center the flexibility to set staffing levels, with staff nurse input, to best match the needs of our patients,” Lagger said in an email.

Both sides have yet to agree on salary increases. Union officials want a 4 percent increase in pay per year over three years, while administrators are calling for a 2 percent increase, Ellett said.

“I do think there’s a strong possibility of us being able to reach an agreement on what wages will be,” he said. “I don’t see that as difficult to deal with as the staffing levels in question.”

Lagger said the hospital’s offer “reflects an approximate $4 million investment in our nurses over the next three years, including a [6 percent] wage increase over the course of the contract, and various other enhancements.”

Ellett said he’s optimistic with negotiations continuing on Wednesday.

“Our expectation is that a strike isn’t going to be necessary to get a decent contact. Of course, that remains to be seen,” he said. “That’s up to the employer as much as anything, but at this point, we’re still very optimistic that this contract will be resolved without something dramatic like a strike.”

Lagger said hospital officials are disappointed with the nurses’ vote this week, adding that they will continue to bargain in good faith to reach an agreement.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Management has agreed to return to the bargaining table next week on April 9.  We demand that they return with a new attitude towards negotiating an agreement that is acceptable to the membership. 

Despite spending the last two weeks trying to scare people about the expiration of the contract, management sent out an email after the vote reversing its message:  "Terms and conditions of employment remain at status quo while the parties work toward a tentative agreement."  Apparently, some supervisors haven't got the message and continue to damage their credibility with their employees by spreading nonsense.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

St. Joe nurses voted 38 to 497 (with two spoiled ballots) to reject management's offer after two days of voting. Many members remarked on the lack of addressing safe staffing, the removal of EIB from the protection of the contract, and the replacing of HE with standby as primary reasons for voting "no."  Others noted that management's proposal had significantly smaller wage increases than the current agreement.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, both parties have a continuing obligation to bargain in good faith.  The Union has demanded to return to the bargaining table so that an agreement acceptable to both sides can be reached.  We're hopeful that management will listen to the message that nurses have sent them.

And if management won't listen?  Then we have to get louder.  And we may have to take our message to the community. One way or another, we will have our voices heard!
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