BURLINGTON, Vt., Aug. 22 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, on Tuesday sent a letter to RWJ Barnabas Health’s President and Chief Executive Officer Mark E. Manigan urging him to bargain in good faith with United Steel Workers (USW) Local 4-200 and come to an agreement on a fair contract for nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) – one that provides for safe staffing standards, living wages, and quality, affordable health care. Since August 4, nearly 2,000 nurses at RWJUH, one of the largest hospitals in New Jersey, have been forced to resort to striking over unfair labor practices.
“Let’s be clear: If RWJBH can afford to hire these replacement nurses and pay their executives millions each year, they can afford a contract that keeps nurses safe and provides living wages and good benefits,” wrote Sanders. “These workers have been on the frontlines in our fight against COVID-19 and have risked their lives to save patients under challenging conditions. They deserve better.”
While RWJBH continues to make millions in revenues, the wages for RWJUH nurses are not keeping pace with the rising cost of living. The nurses have also reported unfair restrictions on their health care plans and reduced staffing to the point that nurses across the hospital are now caring for unsafe numbers of patients.
Instead of negotiating in good faith, the hospital offered $1 an hour raises for on-call shifts only, which, after adjusting for inflation, would amount to a significant pay cut. Rather than agreeing to safe staffing ratios, the hospital’s most recent offer instead effectively penalizes nurses for using the sick time to which they are legally entitled.
Concluded Sanders: “I urge RWJUH to return to the negotiating table and bargain in good faith and end its unfair labor practices. This is your opportunity to do the right thing and work with your employees to improve your hospital for workers and patients. I look forward to your response.”
Read the full letter, here.