Nurses’ strike mostly uneventful over weekend

Passing motorists were greeted by signage posted in the East Liverpool nurses’ union tent. Sunday was day two of the East Liverpool Nurses Association’s strike against the hospital, whom they allege is refusing to negotiate despite the nurses’ contract expiring early Saturday morning. (Photo by Stephanie Ujhelyi)

EAST LIVERPOOL — The sounds of rock and roll anthems encouraging unity and vehicle horns filled the air near East Liverpool City Hospital this weekend, after nurses started a three-day picket outside the hospital doors.

By Sunday morning, the striking nurses had erected their canopies and brought out the burn barrels in an effort to stay dry and warm as they continued their strike, as rain fell throughout most of the day and temperatures dropped into the low 40s.

The wording may have a run a little on their signs, but union members and supporters were determined to tough it out despite the elements.

The three-day strike was meant to push management to come back to the bargaining table, explained Melissa Klein, who is treasurer for the East Liverpool Nurses Association local 5903.

Anne Mueller, who is the local’s labor representative from the Ohio Nurses Association, agreed with that assessment. “We needed to stand up since they are refusing to bargain, and we hope to have demonstrated that unity with this short strike. We are ready to go to the table,” she said, adding that they were ready to bargain “today.”

The majority of nurses employed at ELCH work three 12-hour shifts per week but due to manpower shortage end up pulling extra shifts.

To get through this strike without sacrificing patient care, ELCH has been busing in replacement travel nurses for those 12-hour shifts and allegedly paying them as much s triple what their striking nurses earn, union members explained.

That, in conjunction with the additional manpower they are busing in as well, seemingly has touched a nerve with protesters, since both seem to be issues at the center of the disputed contract that expired Saturday.

The strike, which is entering day three today, has been conflict-free for the most part — except for a rumored incident, where a union member “touched” the bus transporting the traveling nurses Saturday night.

Hospital spokesman Rick Perez briefly mentioned the rumored encounter, which was quickly disputed by Mueller and union members.

She said there was “no banging” on the bus nor was anyone blocking the bus from exiting. However, protestors were informed that the area where the alleged encounter occurred was private hospital property and they are not permitted to be back there.

Picketers continued to have a presence in front of both the hospital’s main and emergency room entrances on Sunday.

Perez confirmed that there has been no date scheduled to resume negotiations with the Local 5903, but the hospital remains optimistic.

“Our hope is to resume negotiations soon with the intent of reaching a contractual agreement that is beneficial to all parties,” Perez continued. “At ELCH, we value and appreciate our nurses, (and) we look forward to reaching an agreement as soon as possible.”

Klein thanked the public for the outpouring of support through this. “You don’t have any idea how much the community support has meant to us nurses. We would like to come back to the bargaining table and ratify this contract,” she concluded.


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