The unionized nurses at St. Vincent Hospital are continuing to fight against Tenet Healthcare Corporation in their third month on strike for safe staffing levels and a fair contract. Nurses and patients both suffer from for-profit healthcare’s cost-cutting tactics such as understaffing, low pay, poor benefits, and rushed, expensive care. They bore the brunt of the pandemic, while Tenet pocketed billions in COVID-19 relief funds. Worcester Independent Socialist Group (ISG) has been on the line with the nurses since the pre-strike informational picketing, and continues to support the strike wholeheartedly!
Tenet has gone on the attack in an attempt to break the nurses union. Job listings are being advertised on the St. Vincent Facebook page, explicitly stating “some of these positions are for the permanent replacement of striking nurses”. The Worcester Telegram and Gazette uncritically publishes the hospital corporation’s anti-union propaganda, arguing that the nurses are abandoning their patients and that quality care is being provided. Police details and surveillance equipment, paid for by Tenet, help scabs cross the picket lines to keep the hospital “staffed”.
Things may look bleak now, but this strike can win. Many Democrats have visited the picket and claim to be pressuring Tenet behind the scenes, but if that’s true, it’s clear this strategy is not working. Only workers, who make the hospitals run, can defeat big corporations making money off of people who need healthcare! When workers refuse to work, and organize to prevent replacement workers or customers from crossing the picket line, they are in a unique position to affect Tenet’s profits. A single workplace or union should never have to go it alone. Tenet has at its disposal billions in profits and government handouts to try and outlast the nurses. By spreading the strike to other Tenet workplaces, such as MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham, MA, the nurses and healthcare workers can put more pressure on Tenet’s bottomline. At hospitals where workers face many of the same issues, workers can force those corporations to pressure Tenet to come to a fair agreement with the nurses.
A victory for the St. Vincent nurses will be a huge boost to other unions and workers in general, and help the struggle for high quality healthcare for everyone. ISG will continue to help build solidarity for the nurses on strike by joining the picket line, donating to the MNA strike fund, and helping to publicize the strike to other unions and the community. We appeal to all labor and community groups to help the nurses in their struggle.
New strategies and tactics can be adopted in response to Tenet’s bid to replace the nurses and break the union. Nurses can and should continue to bring up and gather support for new ideas at union meetings about how to win the strike. Meetings between nurses and supporters should also be organized to discuss new approaches. New strategies to win the strike will win more support. We suggest:
- Unite the struggles for safe staffing levels and fair contracts at all the MNA-unionized healthcare facilities. Connect with current struggles at non-union healthcare facilities too.
- A mass rally and picket of the MNA and supporters at St. Vincent. MNA members across the state could be bussed into Worcester, and all unions in the area could do the same.
- Car caravans, like those organized by the MNA at the beginning of the pandemic, could visit neighborhoods in Worcester to increase the visibility of the strike and build more community support for the nurses!
- Standouts with nurses and supporters could be organized at City Hall, Polar Park, and at high-traffic intersections throughout Worcester to spread the news of the strike and show solidarity.
- All unions in Massachusetts should turn out their members and organize solidarity actions for all workers at St. Vincent Hospital, including those organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT).
- Don’t cross the picket line! We urge all the union workers at St. Vincent to support the nurses and refuse to work until an agreement with Tenet can be reached that satisfies MNA members and every union at St. Vincent.