Nurses at Mercy Allen Hospital voted to approve a new contract agreement with the hospital that will result in continuous wage increases over the next three years. The ratified deal comes after the Ohio Nurses Association created a petition last week accusing Mercy of underpaying and understaffing its nurses. Following this, the ONA and Mercy administrators negotiated a proposal on April 26. It will go into effect retroactively April 1 and affects approximately 30 nurses.
“The new agreement is similar to the old [agreement],” Haley Poggiali, a spokesperson for the Mercy Allen Hospital nurses, wrote in an email to the Review. “The primary negotiations focused on maintaining pay increases throughout the duration of our new contract.”
Contract negotiations between the nurses’ union and hospital administrators had been ongoing since February. In an attempt to generate pressure, ONA filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board against Mercy Allen Hospital. The union also reached out to Oberlin’s Student Labor Action Coalition for help in acquiring community petition signatures.
“[SLAC] was extremely helpful in networking to gather community support for our petition,” Poggiali wrote. “All of the students who signed and let their voices be heard helped us gain momentum in our negotiations — we can’t thank them enough.”
SLAC’s communications point, College junior Elsa Schlensker, was similarly appreciative.
“It’s an awe-striking and humbling experience to talk, organize and canvass with off-campus unions and experienced labor organizers,” Schlensker wrote in a message to the Review. “[It was also] a welcome reprieve to kick back and analyze the similarities and differences between on-campus organizing and labor organizing happening around Lorain County.”
While SLAC believes this issue impacts students, Schlensker was also quick to point out that this is not the only reason the group supported the medical center nurses.
“I think it’s important also to let this be an issue that isn’t only about students,” Schlensker wrote. “Labor issues are valid [because] they’re labor issues, and they don’t suddenly become irrelevant if they don’t pertain directly to students.”
While the new contract represents a welcome change for nurses at Mercy Allen Hospital, Poggiali pointed out that several issues remain unresolved, including concerns about inadequate nurse staffing and inconsistent practices between the two parties regarding paid time off.
“The new agreement did not specifically address the issues surrounding staffing,” Poggiali wrote. “The solution to that problem will be ongoing between the union and management.”
Representatives from Mercy Allen Hospital did not return a request for comment.