Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Altoona Nurses Stand Up For Standards

Since last spring, I've had the pleasure of standing with people like Paula Stellabotte and Maria Wickstrom doing my very small part to help bring community awareness to the impact that UPMC would have on our community.  Yesterday, I stood proudly on the picket lines with Altoona RNs, and numerous members of other unions to show UPMC that the community stands with Altoona nurses.

The crowd was really amazing and it wasn't just Altoona nurses.  Locked out UWUA workers - from Penelec - came down with fire wood and burn barrels to help keep picketing nurses and supporters warm.  AFSCME workers came and the AFL-CIO was represented too.

Union laborers of every stripe stood out in the cold, alongside Altoona RNs to show UPMC that Altoona nurses and our community will not be bullied.  We will stand together and we will stand strong.

Altoona's nurses voted, because of UPMC's insistance on totally unacceptable terms including lower levels of staffing, to have a one day strike on February 11.  They chose a one day strike because, as SEIU Healthcare PA President Neal Bisno said at a rally this evening, "Nurses do not go on strike lightly...Nurses go on strike and nurses went on strike to protect our community and to protect our patients."
SEIU Healthcare PA President,
Neal Bisno
Today Altoona RNs were still on strike because UPMC, rather than coming to the table and bringing their nurses right back to work, contracted with a staffing agency to bring in non-union nurses from as far away as Florida - for four days. UPMC was willing to spend millions of dollars to bring in nurses from outside this community who don't know Altoona or the people of this community, and as Mayor Bill Schirf said tonight, "We don't want substitute nurses."  UPMC is willing to do all this rather than deal fairly with the dedicated nurses that are here in this community.  This isn't surprising though considering that recently the National Labor Relations Board has opened a hearing with UPMC over unfair labor practices in Pittsburgh.  And because UPMC is unwilling to deal in good faith, Altoona RNs were on the picket lines again today and this evening held a highly-attended and high-spirited rally at the Altoona Area High School auditorium.

Altoona RNs, labor, and community supporters heard from a number of speakers, including some of their own.  I can't wait to see the Altoona Mirror's article on the rally.  I wonder if they'll call anyone primitive?  Go ahead, click that link and look for it.  I promise, it's worth it.

People filing into AAHS auditorium

I don't think I'd offend anyone in declaring the everyone's favorite speaker of the evening was Dominic Sgro, Director of AFSCME Disctric Council 83.

Dominic Sgro, AFSCME
 Mr. Sgro brought the room to its feet saying, "As long as you walk that line, AFSCME will walk it with you!"  He decried the upper echelons of UPMC making millions of dollars on the backs of labor, a sentiment echoed by many.

I admit that I've got a couple chapters to catch up on for my Political Opinion class and I need to study for a Spanish test, but being at this rally tonight was well worth my time.  Any time we can stand by nurses who stand by us when we most need support, it's worth it.  If you're not in this fight yet, standing by Altoona's RNs, it's time to get in it.  Look at what UPMC is doing in Pittsburgh and understand that no matter how independent they say that UPMC Altoona's president and board are, they're still a part of UPMC.  It's time to stand up to UPMC and make sure that they understand that we won't let our nurses and our community be bullied.