Greenfield Nurses' Strike Vote

On February 8, about 200 nurses at the Greenfield hospital voted to authorize a strike. This does not necessarily mean they will go on strike; it means their elected union leaders have the power to call a strike.

Donna Stern is a nurse at the hospital. “Nurses are being pushed beyond our ability to safely care for our patients,” she said. “If we have too many patients at one time, how can we provide high-quality care? If we work 12 hours without a break or are forced into illegal, mandatory overtime, how can we be sure our patients are getting the best possible care?”

The Greenfield hospital is owned by Baystate corporation. Jillian Sicard is another nurse at the hospital. “The hospital is failing to provide core nurse staffing from the very start when it issues schedules,” she said. “The hospital is scrambling to try and fill many open shifts, or is leaving them unfilled, to the detriment of patient care. Baystate forces unsafe patient assignments and unsafe working conditions on nurses. We cannot provide the high quality care our patients deserve when we have too many patients at one time, are fatigued and undernourished because we must work through our breaks, and are required to stay beyond our scheduled shifts in violation of state law.”

The nurses have a union, which has a web site at www.MassNurses.org.

The workers want fewer patients per nurse, and better wages and benefits.

On average, workers in the USA make 27 percent higher wages when they join a union. That's according to www.bls.gov.

On average, female workers in the USA make 31 percent higher wages when they join a union. Nationally, about 90 percent of nurses are women.

Most union contracts say workers can only be fired for "just cause." Non-union workers can be fired at any time for no reason.

Millions of workers in the USA are union members, including all the workers at UPS, UMass Amherst, the Brattleboro Retreat (900 or so workers), and the food co-ops in Northampton, Greenfield, and Brattleboro. The Brattleboro co-op has about 160 employees.

The middle class in the USA is disappearing. There are more rich people and more poor people than there have been since the 1920s. This allows billionaires more influence over politicians. Unions are one way to expand the middle class and increase democracy.

In other news from the Valley, on February 13 at the library in Sunderland, Massachusetts there was a public, free class about the advantages of electric cars. Sunderland borders Amherst.

In France last year President Emmanuel Macron promised an "end to the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040" to be replaced by electric vehicles.

But just 7 percent of the USA’s electricity comes from solar and wind combined. Thirty-four percent comes from climate-change-causing “natural” gas, 30 percent comes from coal, 20 percent comes from nuclear (which also causes climate change), and 7 percent comes from dams. Native Americans in Canada are fighting the dams that are a large part of where Brattleboro’s electricity comes from. Boston is expected to soon get power from the same dams. The dams flood the Native Americans’ land and kill fish in their rivers.

The remaining 9 percent of the USA’s electricity comes from biomass (which forest defenders in the Valley are fighting), geothermal (less than half of 1 percent of the nation’s electricity supply), and other fossil fuels.

An alternative to electric and gas cars is protecting open space to encourage people to live in places like downtown Northampton and Brattleboro, where people can live without a car.

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