CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Signs on a front porch in Stanton Heights, spring 2020
Nurses at West Penn Hospital faced a long battle after unionizing
last August while enduring the harsh working circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic. However, a year later, the battle has mostly come to an end with a majority vote to ratify their first union contract.
“We were already dealing with a nationwide nurse shortage, and then the pandemic hit. Coming together as a union, we were able to negotiate a contract that respects nurses and makes important new investments in our profession,” said Deb Burlett, RN from Labor and Delivery in a press release.
About 700 nurses at West Penn voted last August to be represented by SEIU Healthcare PA where they would join 4,000 AHN nurses technical, clerical, and service workers. As the negotiation continued, the nurses issued a strike notice
to West Penn management in late July after they failed to recruit and retain nurses.
Now with the ratification of their first union contract, the nurses at West Penn will have improved staffing measures, a strong pay scale and recognition for experience, protection of benefits, and a strong voice for nurses to collaborate with management.
An in-depth look into the highlights of the contract include adequate staffing levels, a process for nurses and management to communicate staffing issues, a new 25 year pay scale which values experience, and a strong cap on health insurance increases without increase of out-of-pocket pay.
“Ensuring frontline nurses have a strong voice is the only way to fix the nursing crisis and guarantee our patients get the care they deserve,” Burlett said. “We are proud of the determination, hard work and courage nurses showed over the last year to lead us through COVID, and we are excited to move West Penn forward.”
The conditions of the contract with Allegheny Health Network are effective immediately and will last three years, according to the TribLive
“I am proud to have West Penn Hospital in my district — especially because of the heroic nurses who kept the hospital running during this pandemic,” said state Sen. Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills). “I congratulate them for continuing to provide the very best care during these incredibly difficult times and negotiating for a strong voice and new investments in nurses.”