CANTON, Mass. – The 3,300 registered nurses of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United (MNA/NNU), will conduct an informational picket outside the Boston-based hospital on Tuesday, May 17 from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. as they fight for fair treatment during contract negotiations.
Nurses are increasingly frustrated that Brigham and Women’s Hospital, under billionaire corporate owner Partners HealthCare, has become less responsive to the needs of its patients and its nurses. Eight months of contract negotiations have thrown into stark relief the ways BWH and Partners disrespect and undervalue the nurses who provide the vast majority of patient care at the hospital.
“Every day we fight for our patients and our colleagues, while every day Brigham and Women’s Hospital becomes more corporate, more worried about its bottom line and less concerned with providing a safe, caring and respectful environment,” said Patricia Powers, an OR/Trauma RN and chair of the local MNA bargaining unit. “Running a successful hospital and treating people with dignity and professionalism should not be incompatible.”
For years, BWH has been affiliated with Partners HealthCare. Partners is the most profitable health care employer in the state, posting profits in fiscal year 2014 alone of more than $600 million, with revenues in excess of $10.9 billion, according to state financial filings. From 2010 to 2014, Partners made more than $1.9 billion in profit. BWH itself made $152 million in profit in 2014.
A non-profit like Partners should be investing this fortune in health care for the communities it serves and in the employees who provide that care. Instead, Partners uses its enormous profits to enrich its top executives. The five highest paid Partners executives got a nearly $1.3 million combined pay hike from 2013 to 2014, equaling a 23 percent increase in salaries.
At the same time, BWH has refused to provide an across-the-board wage increase to nurses and is attempting to diminish their benefits:
The hospital has said it is “unreasonable” to provide a fair wage increase to all nurses. Yet Brigham President Elizabeth Nabel received an 18 percent raise between 2012 and 2013. Her wages rose to $2.38 million. In 2014, Partners CEO David Torchiana made $2.7 million. That is unreasonable. But it is no surprise Partners operates this way. There is no one from the nursing profession on its board of directors and no working-class representative. Instead, 80 percent of the board consists of venture capitalists, banking CEOs, lawyers and corporate executives.
“The message nurses hear from the hospital is: People don’t matter, profits matter,” Powers said. “It is irresponsible that a hospital making hundreds of millions of dollars in profits refuses to offer a fair wage increase to nurses while trying to create a two-tiered, union-busting benefit system.”
Nurses have been negotiating since September 2015 to reach an agreement replacing the contract that was scheduled to expire Sept. 30, 2015. They have participated in 17 bargaining sessions to date. The next session is scheduled for May 20, 2016.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United is the largest professional health care organization and the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public. The MNA is a founding member of National Nurses United, the largest national nurses’ union in the United States with more than 170,000 members from coast to coast.