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Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

April 3rd, 2010 9:40 PM

RNs on Strike at Temple: Snapshots from Day Three on the Line

A transplant doctor steps into the crowd of picketing nurses and other health professionals at Temple and says how much he hopes this is all over soon.  “I just cannot transplant anyone this way,” he shares. No one takes any pleasure in his statement, but another RN asks him about a patient she was caring for when the strike began just three days ago.  “He’s doing OK,” says the doctor who seems to know the nurse needs some reassurance. “His left lung is, well, he’s doing OK.”  The moment of shared concern for the patient passes as the doctor squeezes the nurse’s arm then moves on and the nurse returns to the picket line.

The strike by the 1500 nurses, healthcare professional and technical employees at Temple University Hospital began this Wednesday morning, so this is day three for the members of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals union, PASNAP.

"We will be on strike until Temple is ready to begin a relationship of cooperation and respect. This strike is about our fundamental rights as workers and healthcare professionals, which the hospital seeks to undermine with their 'best and final' offer. Their offer has not changed for months, despite the union's commitment to good faith bargaining," said Maureen May, RN and president of the nurses' union told the rally.

Back on the line, two young children walk with their mother, Carolyn Humphries, as she rounds the picket route for the umpteenth time.  Lana, 6, says she likes to march and loves her mom, so she’s thrilled to be out in the warm Good Friday sun in north Philadelphia.  Her brother, Julian, 10, says he thinks this is fun and that his mom needed to strike so she can do her job the right way.

Around the corner, an ambitious 18-year-old walks with his mother and wonders if he’ll have the money he needs to start college in the fall.  He dreams of being a state trooper some day.  His mom, clearly proud of her son and grateful to have his support, says it’s hard to be on strike, especially since her husband was laid off months ago and his income has been half of normal on unemployment benefits. “But sometimes you just have to do what’s right,” she says.  She says she’ll stay out on strike as long as it takes even though it’s not an easy time for a strike.

Cars honk as they pass the picketing nurses, and yells and cheers spread.  Fists are pumped in the air from inside passing vehicles and in return from picketing nurses. Ambulances drivers give a little extra horn bump in solidarity as they pass.  

"We hope to return to work soon, but will steadfastly remain on strike until Temple hears the message being sent by the 1500 of us striking nurses and healthcare professionals, politicians, and the community that they need to fairly negotiate,” May said on Wednesday, but on Friday Temple’s administration continued to bring in busloads of “scab” nurses.

From a Philadelphia Inquirer report published Friday, “The union wants Temple to document compliance with state laws and to verify that replacement workers are licensed with valid credentials. PASNAP contends the agency doing most of the strike hiring, HealthSource Global Staffing, of California, had submitted false payroll reports and failed to pay insurance premiums owed to a state compensation insurance fund, according to a complaint filed in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco.”

"We want the Department of Health to investigate," said Patricia Eakin, registered nurse in Temple Hospital's emergency room and statewide president of PASNAP.

In the meantime, the marchers continue to share their commitment to striking until they are no longer forced to submit to a gag order which would prevent them from advocating effectively for their patients.

There is a lot on the line for RNs at Temple.  Just ask those walking by their sides.

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