Features, Health and Safety, Law and Politics, Municipal Government, National

Vermont Nurses’ Strike Sought Raise for Nonunion Coworkers

August 22, 2018

By Steve Wishnia and Neal Tepel

BURLINGTON, Vt.—When 1,800 nurses and technical staff at the University of Vermont Medical Center held a two-day strike July 12-13, they weren’t just seeking better wages for themselves: They were also demanding a $15-an-hour minimum for their nonunion co-workers, including office staff, cleaners, kitchen workers, and orderlies. The Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals couldn’t legally negotiate raises for jobs not covered in the contract, but it argued that low wages caused understaffing—and a provision in the contract says the hospital “shall provide sufficient ancillary staff so as to ensure that such duties do not fall to bargaining unit employees.” Licensed nursing assistants, whose starting pay is less than $13 an hour, “are essential to our work,” neurology nurse Maggie Belensz told Labor Notes. “More so than nurses even, LNAs are constantly short-staffed. Then we have nurses doing LNA duties, on top of the nursing workload.” The campaign also helped the nurses win public support during the strike. “We had policemen and firefighters and UPS drivers pulling over and shaking our hands,” says Belensz. “We had pizza places dropping off dozens of pizzas, giving out free ice cream.” Read more

August 22, 2018

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