SLUH nurses call rally to demand a fair contract

REGISTERED NURSES at SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital launched a 24-hour strike on Sept. 25, 2023 to protest hospital management’s refusal to address RNs’ concerns about patient care, safe staffing and workplace violence. With no progress in negotiations, nurses launched a second 48-hour strike on Dec. 27, 2023. – Labor Tribune file photo

By TIM ROWDEN
Editor-in-Chief

St. Louis – After a year of negotiations, SSM St. Louis University Hospital (SLUH) nurses are planning a rally outside the hospital at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 18, to demand a fair contract.

“Management has been unwilling to address SLUH’s inability to retain nursing talent,” the nurses announced.

“The cost-of-living crisis has made it difficult for nurses to continue working at SLUH after two years of no raise. The staffing situation has become untenable and management needs to invest in recruiting and retaining nursing staff. SLUH must put patient safety first! Join us in solidarity as we fight to make SLUH a better place for patients and the community we serve.”

DISAPPOINTING PROPOSAL
Joe Barrios, Labor representative for National Nurses United (NNU/NNOC), which represents the nurses at SLUH, said nurses have been bargaining in good faith to reach a contract agreement but management has refused to provide meaningful cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) and offered an insulting retention bonus that nurses would have to wait four years to receive.

“Management came back with a very, very disappointing economic proposal,” he said.

Barrios said management’s proposal offers no cost-of-living adjustments in the second and third years of the contract, and a paltry 20-cent-an-hour raise for nurses with 20 or more years or experience.

It’s worth noting that while SLUH offered only 20 cents per hour raises to staff nurses, they continue to provide a $40,000 sign-on bonus for new employees and SSM Health CEO Laura Kaiser recently got a $2.8 million (68 percent) raise for 2024.

LOSING NURSES
“They’re already losing nurses left, right and center because area hospitals are offering them something better, a few bucks more, and they jump ship,” Barrios said. “They’re basically running the place to the ground in terms of staffing.

“Rather than investing in their core staff, they’re spending all this money on traveling nurses and agency nurses.”

That has led to speculation that SSM’s end goal is to staff its hospitals solely with agency nurses, thereby avoiding union contracts and benefits.

“With core staff, they’re committed. Agency nurses, they’re there for a paycheck and when their contract is up they move on,” Barrios said. “It’s craziness. It’s reckless. And in the end the people who suffer are the patients who get their care from here.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP
For more information on the nurses’ fight and how you can help, contact Barrios at 312-491-4911 or 773-406-6463 or email jbarrios@nationalnursesunited.org.


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