by Jonathan Weaver
Certain ACMH Licensed Practical Nurses and Technicians part of a bargaining unit are unsure if they will be permitted to go back to work today after walking the picket line during business hours yesterday.
Starting at 7AM, the nearly-125 member Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) union (at last count) picketed in the rain, hair and wind near the hospital entrance on Nolte Drive due to staffing and illegal bargaining concerns with management officials.
PASNAP Staff Representative and Lead Negotiator Curtis Dahn estimated more than 100 union members participated in the strike throughout the day.
As Union Co-President Angelique Richards was after an early-March negotiating session with ACMH board of directors after an informational picket, Dahn was hopeful staffing concerns would be addressed.
“We were hopeful after that one – it sounded like they might be willing to talk about staffing, but it turned out they actually weren’t willing to talk about staffing in a real substantive way,” Dahn said. “They continue to refuse to bargain about actually increasing the staffing to where we feel we would need it for patient care and patient safety.
“The hospital, I think, made an active decision to have a strike here.”
He said the union’s proposal includes adding about a dozen more respiratory technicians – including staffing a critical care respiratory float or replacing employees that have left that have not been filled.
Richards, who has been a respiratory therapist for five years, and Vice President Pat Ray indicated feelings of anger and disappointment after that bargaining session that eventually led to an unfit proposal and changes to their working conditions.
Richards said those actions only made the union stronger.
“The people that were on the fence about the union have been all about the union now – we’ve gained more members; we have a superior turnout here,” Richards said. “There have been vehicles that came up, saw that there was a strike and turned right back around.
“We’ve had such an outpouring of support. It’s been fabulous.”
In addition to the community, support was felt by the presence of Commissioners Rich Fink and Bob Bower and Commissioner Candidates George Skamai, Pat Fabian and Bid Atwood.
A tent full of pizza boxes, water bottles and coffee containers filled a close-by clearing where dozens of supporters gathered for a rally
Union Co-President Cris Scott – a technician for 20 years – said bargaining members should demand patients receive the highest level of care with more staff support.
“I’m so proud of everyone for having the courage today to either walk off of the job or just not show up. We’ve told management over-and-over again that we were a united front, but they chose not to listen – and I think we proved our point, Scott said.
“Whether they admit it or not, they need us.”
PASNAP also represents bargaining unit Registered Nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants within ACMH – signing a petition in support of their friends and colleagues receiving a fair contract.
“I am beyond happy with all the nurses, aides and housekeepers that have come up to us and said ‘I wish we could be on the line with you – we back you 110 percent,’” Richards said.
The strike could have reportedly been delayed if certain illegal practices were rectified.
An email seeking comment from ACMH board of directors was not returned before today’s edition.