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On this page, you will find ongoing updates about the activities of 1199 members who work for hospitals in Rhode Island.  Scroll below to read any current posts – and check back soon for updates!

Butler Hospital employees picket over benefits, working conditions

Several dozen employees of Butler Hospital represented by the District 1199 SEIU New England union joined supporters to picket the Care New England hospital Wednesday afternoon in protest of what they allege are unfair labor practices by management.Care New England promptly denied the allegations.

In a statement, the union asserted that management is “attempting to deny new workers good union jobs and [is] denying existing workers access to benefits they have earned.” The union further claims that the hospital “has been ignoring the patient safety concerns of frontline staff” and “denying benefits to its workforce in defiance of the collective bargaining agreement.”

Colleen McGovern, a Butler employee, said “we are standing up for patient safety and protecting our good union jobs so that we can protect the high quality of care, staying true to the mission of the hospital.”

Dressed as the Grinch, Jay Drapeau, a union Delegate and worker at Butler Hospital, walks the picket line with fellow workers in front of the Butler campus on Blackstone Boulevard. [The Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach]

Dressed as the Grinch, Jay Drapeau, a union Delegate and worker at Butler Hospital, walks the picket line with fellow workers in front of the Butler campus on Blackstone Boulevard. [The Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach]

Added registered nurse Ashley Oullette, “I plan to commit my life’s work and experience to the patients at Butler Hospital. When frontline staff don’t have a seat at the table where management is making decisions on how we provide services to advocate for patients and safety, our hospital is a less safe place.”

In response, Care New England told The Journal that “ensuring the safety of all of our patients, staff and visitors at Butler Hospital is a major priority. In fact, we’ve made a number of recent significant investments to improve safety on the hospital campus, including hiring of new staff, a new property management system, additional surveillance cameras and security doors, and a new visitor center with systems to better screen visitors, among other measures.

“Any claims of unfair labor practices at Butler Hospital are categorically false. As always, we welcome discussions with the employees union about their concerns.”

The union represents nearly 30,000 health-care and service workers in Connecticut and Rhode Island, and says it is the largest union at Care New England.

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We Need To Do Better For Our Elderly

From the Warwick Beacon –

Visit the website to read the article here –

While nobody likes to admit it – time is an undefeated opponent. Take all the supplements in the world, work out seven times a week, buy sketchy natural health booster tablets off the internet, and the end result will be the same. Time passes, we age, we lose the independence that defined our lives.

Of course, not everyone gets the luxury of living to old age, but thanks to modern medicine and technology and rapidly rising health awareness, more of us are living longer than ever before. It simultaneously is a cause for celebration and a cause for concern. The reason being that, with more people getting older, how do we plan to take care of them?

In Rhode Island, this is an especially large problem, as a forum held at Sts. Rose and Clements on Tuesday night highlighted. The advocacy coalition Raise the Bar on Resident Care reported its statewide nursing home care findings to a room full of potential difference makers, and now eyes will be upon them to see if anything gets done to help remedy the issues brought up.

The problem is a numbers game – not just in the amount of people that require care and in the low amount of people to care for them, but in numbers accompanied by dollar signs. The report shows how Rhode Island has a higher proportion of its population aged 85 and older than any other state in the country, and how nearly a quarter of the state’s population will be a senior citizen (aged 65 or older) by the year 2030.

Despite this, Rhode Island is the only state in progressive New England where there is no mandated minimum staffing standard for nursing home facilities. To compound the problem, nursing home workers in Rhode Island make less in median hourly wage than workers in our two neighbors – about a dollar less per hour than in Massachusetts and about $1.75 less than workers in Connecticut.

It’s hard to imagine that someone charged with taking care of a fragile senior citizen – the report indicates 50 percent of residents aged 85 and older have some type of physical limitation, while 70 percent of all nursing home residents have some type of cognitive impairment – is making about the same as someone working at a retail outlet. The recipe of understaffing and underpayment is one that can lead to disastrous consequences, as several CNAs explained during the forum on Tuesday night. It can lead to instances of neglect, abuse and high turnover rates in these facilities.

In order to take care of our senior citizens in a way that we would want our own grandparents to be treated, we have to take care of the people who provide that care. The people who choose to enter a career as a CNA certainly don’t go down that route for the money, but to do such a difficult and often thankless job certainly can’t be any easier when you’re worried about paying your bills at the end of the month.

At the very least, Rhode Island should mandate nursing home residents receive a minimum of 4.1 hours per day of direct care and bump wages for CNAs to a level that compensates them fairly for the important work they do. The people in our nursing homes are beloved family members, former teachers, former public safety workers, veterans of foreign wars – they are people that matter, and should be taken care of in a way that promotes their prolonged health and livelihood in a manner that also preserves their dignity.

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My Turn: Patrick J. Quinn: Don’t fall for Lifespan’s tricks

Women & Infants and Butler Hospitals, along with other affiliates that make up Care New England, have been vital parts of the Rhode Island community for generations. As the executive vice president of District 1199 SEIU New England, I have the honor of representing about 2,400 nurses and other health-care professionals who provide care at those facilities, along with other health-care providers across the state.

You will find no stronger advocate for our patients and their families than the hardworking 1199 members who show up every day to provide the best maternal, infant and mental-health care in Rhode Island.

RI_Women and Infants BldgWe are alarmed at Lifespan’s corporate campaign to portray itself as an advocate for Rhode Island health-care workers, patients and families. It is the direct care staff from Women & Infants and Butler hospitals, along with community allies, other unions and health-care reformers, who won the strong protections you’ll find in the Rhode Island Hospital Conversion Act, a national model for protecting patients, workers and communities.

The act ensures that any conversion of a hospital will be vetted by the state Department of Health and attorney general to protect continued local access to affordable care, protection of services for underserved populations, commitments to maintain and expand current health-care services, and a guarantee to protect good, local union jobs.

Meanwhile, Lifespan executives have a record of turning their backs on any part of our state health system but their own. They have been asked numerous times in recent years about merging or purchasing various health-care institutions in our state always to say no in hopes of a fire sale. They opposed legislation that protects patients by outlawing the dangerous practice of forcing clinical staff to work mandatory consecutive shifts, and they have relied heavily on out-of-state traveling nurses instead of investing in a robust nurse development and career advancement program. Despite sharing a campus with Care New England, Lifespan even attempted to unilaterally withdraw from shared clinical responsibilities, potentially putting cardiac patients at risk.

Lifespan’s history does not match its shallow rhetoric. It is disingenuous at best for it to campaign on mistruths and a contrived concern that an acquisition of another health-care system might diminish care.

Only months ago, Lifespan was at the table vying for its own Partners-Care New England deal. Now that it is no longer a part of the conversation, it appears determined to thwart all other sales as well. And why not?

If it were to take over Care New England, it would employ almost all of the state’s hospital-based registered nurses and have a near monopoly on care in Rhode Island — a frightening prospect for anyone but Lifespan’s bloated administration.

Lifespan’s dream of taking over Care New England would lead to job losses and consolidation of services. This is especially worrisome since Lifespan has a history of paying lower wages than Care New England to the majority of its health-care employees. Perhaps if it did not pay its “non-profit” CEO $2.5 million per year, it would have an ounce of credibility.

We will continue to monitor the acquisition closely, and we encourage the public to demand that regulators, policymakers and signatories act in the best interests of Rhode Islanders. The state is the largest purchaser of health services, and we should be an informed steward of tax dollars.

We evaluate all mergers using the criteria laid out in the Hospital Conversion Act: Will Partners maintain services in Rhode Island, will it respect our members’ hard-won rights, will it keep care affordable and accessible, will it invest in training and career ladders and will it maintain high-quality care for underserved populations?

Two of our state’s largest private-sector employers should never be allowed to merge.

We encourage others to tune out Lifespan’s misleading soundbites as we await the completion of the application and a subsequent public conversation around Partners’ commitment to Rhode Island. The future of our health-care system and our economy is too important.

Patrick J. Quinn is executive vice president of District 1199 SEIU New England.

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RI Dept. of Health Considering Mandatory Annual Flu Vaccine for Health Care Workers

Health care workers have a long history of supporting public health initiatives, and we know how important immunization is in helping prevent the spread of illness.

But we also know that health care choices are intensely personal matters – which is why we object to the new regulation being proposed by the RI Department of Health that would mandate that all health care workers receive an influenza vaccination every year. Workers who decline the vaccine would be required to wear a surgical mask at work or face fines and disciplinary action.  That’s why we’re saying:

Click here to send a message that flu vaccines should be encouraged, but not mandatory!

We already delivered over 1000 signatures at the Public Hearing on the rule that was held on Friday, September 21 at the Department of Health, where 1199 members and our allies testified overwhelmingly against the proposal.  The Providence Journal reported:

“I do not feel the government has the right to strong-arm anyone into something which they find objectionable,” said Catherine Mainville, a nurse who noted that she gets the flu shot every year. […]

Of the 24 people who spoke, 19 opposed the mandate. Union leaders also presented petitions that they said were signed by hundreds of their members.

Representatives of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP), along with the Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, opposed the rules as a violation of constitutionally protected liberties and national labor laws.

Health-care workers are already required to prove that they are vaccinated against an array of illnesses, such as measles, rubella and pertussis.

But extending that requirement to the flu came under fire because flu shots are not 100-percent effective and, the critics said, there is not enough evidence that vaccinating workers actually prevents illness in patients. […]

Rather than mandates, health-care workers need education, said William K. Borwegen, the SEIU’s director of occupational health and safety. “We support vaccination. We can get there,” he said. “We don’t have to create all this acrimony in the workplace in order to get there.”

Some of the 1199 members who came to the hearing at the RI Department of Health.

1199 encourages all health care workers to get the flu vaccine, but we respect the fact that some people choose not to for health, personal, or religious reasons.  Forcing these individuals to wear masks doesn’t make any sense. There’s no scientific evidence that surgical masks help prevent the spread of the flu, and those we care for could feel threatened or uncomfortable if their care givers are wearing masks.

That’s why we need to send a strong message to the Department of Health. Health care workers should be allowed to “opt-out” of receiving the influenza vaccine for personal, medical, or religious reasons — and not have to face mask-wearing, exorbitant fines, or disciplinary action as a result of their personal health care choice.

Please, sign the petition today!

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Women & Infants’ Hospital Workers Picket for Safe Staffing

Afternoon rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of picketers at Women & Infants Hospital – where over 400 nurses, CNAs, technical, clerical, and service & maintenance workers marched and chanted throughout the day to call on management to improve staffing levels and hire local nurses instead of subcontracted “travelers.”

We got excellent media coverage of our event, including Channel 10Channel 12, the Boston Globe, the Providence Journal, and RI Public Radio:

Women and Infants union members picketed outside the hospital Wednesday to raise awareness about a proposal to hire temporary nurses from out of state.

The Women and Infants employees are calling on the hospital to offer permanent positions to local nurses instead of hiring so called “traveler nurses.” These nurses come from outside staffing agencies and travel to hospitals that need temporary help.

The union known as SEIU District 1199 says temporary nurses aren’t as familiar with the hospital’s operations and might compromise its quality ratings in addition to taking local jobs.

Staffing is a major issue at the hospital in all job classifications – and we’re going to keep the pressure on management to ensure safe staffing practices and protect the excellent reputation of our hospital.

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Pawtucket & Central Falls 1199 Members Fight for a Fair State Budget

1199 members express their outrage over state budget cuts to vital programs and services to several State Representatives from Pawtucket & Central Falls at a forum on February 8.

Nearly 50 members of 1199 who live and work in the Pawtucket and Central Falls area gathered at a forum last night to describe the harmful impact that budget cuts have had on the people that we serve, as well as on our own families.  The forum was attended by four area State Representatives — Bob DaSilva, Mary Duffy Messier, Jay O’Grady, and Gus Silva — who listened to powerful testimony and answered questions for nearly an hour.

Amanda Hitchener and Michael Crompton speaking with Rep. Jay O’Grady.

Workers from the Blackstone Valley ARC, who care for the developmentally disabled in a community-based agency with both residential and day programs, talked about the harmful impact of last year’s $24 million in cuts on the consumers they care for – including cuts in services that diminish the quality of care.  Amanda Hitchener, a direct care staff member asked the elected officials:

Do you remember the Ladd School? That was where the state basically kept developmentally disabled people locked away out of sight and didn’t invest in their care.  With these budget cuts, we’re heading back to that model — and it’s wrong.

Other BVARC workers spoke about the impact of the cuts on their wages, which were already so low that many of them to struggle to keep a roof over their heads.

Nursing home workers from Genesis of Pawtucket & Greenville testified to many of the same issues – staffing ratios that can sink as low as one CNA per 20 residents and reduce the level of attention and care that each resident receives, and their current struggle with their employer, who wants to force them to accept a health care plan that is thousands of dollars more expensive than their current plan.

Deb Mosley from BVCHC speaks up.

Debbie Mosley, a Dental Assistant and union delegate at Blackstone Valley Community Health Care, Inc. added that many of the patients that receive dental care at their clinic are now at risk of losing their Medicaid dental coverage in next year’s proposed budget.  She reminded the elected officials:

As health care workers, we are doing valuable work and providing an important service, but now because of all the tax breaks for the rich you are saying that we have to take a cut.  But trickle-down economics doesn’t work.  It doesn’t work!  These rich people keep getting all the tax breaks to supposedly create jobs – but where are the jobs?

Many 1199 members from Women & Infants Hospital also attended, and lent their support to the struggle to make sure that our communities get the resources necessary to care for our neighbors and our own families. Sukie Ream, a nurse in the Labor Room who also lives in Pawtucket, added:

We appreciate the legislators who attended and listened to our concerns.  We hope they leave with a deeper understanding of how every decision they make has an impact on real people, and a deeper commitment to go back and fix these problems.  And we hope they share this knowledge with their colleagues, especially the ones that were invited that didn’t show up.

For our part, 1199 members in Rhode Island are going to continue organizing and educating our elected officials to make sure that they hear the voice of health care workers and those we care for.

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