The Recorder – Baystate Franklin nurses and allies rally to demand fair deal

GREENFIELD — About 40 adults and about 12 children marched from Baystate Franklin Medical Center to Beacon Field Friday morning to call on hospital leaders to accept a contract that nurses believe is fair.

Billed as the ‘BFMC RN Baby Brigade’, the event was organized by the Massachusetts Nurses Association to generate support for hospital nurses, especially those working at The Birthplace, as they attempt to negotiate better protections and to pay in their contract.

Once in Beacon Field, Rose Bookbinder, assistant director of labor for the nurses’ association, opened the rally by thanking everyone for their attendance and support. Suzanne Love, a Baystate Franklin ER nurse who sits on the bargaining committee, then took to the microphone to praise The Birthplace’s work.

“This place is nationally recognized as an innovative work environment and a birthing environment,” she told the crowd. “So great for us in Franklin County that we have this great resource.”

The march and rally came a week after Love, Bookbinder and four others turned up at 68 Union St. in Westfield, the headquarters of Elm Electrical – the company headed by Baystate’s chairman of the board. Health, Robert Bacon – to deliver a petition consisting of at least 650 signatures printed on a banner demanding a new contract. Bacon was not at headquarters and the banner was left with his assistant.

On Friday, Love said the nurses had been in active negotiations with Baystate Health since the start of winter. She said management had twice agreed to extend the existing contract.

“We were supposed to get a raise on January 1,” Love said. “We haven’t gotten that yet because we don’t have an agreement in the contract for it to go past its expiration date of December 31.”

Love also mentioned that she appreciates how respectful management has been to the nurses during negotiations.

“We’re getting there,” she said. “Gatherings like this really help us get management to understand that it’s not just these 225 (nurses) you’re negotiating with, but you’re actually negotiating with a community.”

Love said nursing can stay local if nurses are paid enough to incentivize them not to work elsewhere.

Marissa Potter, a nurse at The Birthplace, said executives’ investment in their nursing staff allows people to stay in Greenfield “and continue to do the good work that we are doing”. She said she believes all patients who choose a community hospital do so because they want to be cared for by their neighbors.

Gillian Cannon, another nurse from The Birthplace, said her workplace is very special and she is lucky to be there.

“I think those two years have been very, very difficult for everyone, for nurses in particular, in our unique way,” she said. “We are still going through this. We are still suffering the consequences of this and it is really important that our employer really recognizes this and respects what we have done.

Cannon’s comments on The Birthplace were particularly appropriate on Friday, as she was due to give birth in five days.

Deb Provost, Baystate Franklin’s chief nursing officer, said the hospital has engaged in respectful and productive contract negotiations with representatives of the Massachusetts Nurses Association over the past five months.

“We continue to make progress towards a fair deal,” she said. “This includes continuing our long-term commitment to secure staffing, market-competitive compensation, and continued investment in local care.”

Contact Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

Leave a Reply