Patients Shouldn’t Suffer in Labor Disputes

The 60 Plus Association is calling on the leadership of United Steelworkers to stop using patients as leverage in its contract negotiations with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

United Steelworkers is organizing picket lines outside the hospital as part of a nurses’ strike amidst ongoing contract negotiations. Unions will say strikes are supposed to be disruptive. They are a tool for drawing attention to the union’s demands. But harassing patients as they seek care at a medical facility crosses a line.

We have seen picketers harm  patients with excessive noise from fireworks, drums, air horns, train horns, sirens, and loud music at all hours of the day and night. This noise has real consequences for patients. Rest is critical to recovery, and the intentionally disruptive racket prevents patients from getting the rest they need.

If United Steelworkers truly cared about nurses, its leaders would put down the bullhorns, return  to the negotiating table, and accept a fair deal so these valued frontline workers  can get back to doing what they love: caring for patients.

The reality of the situation is that the union has rejected numerous proposals that met its initial demands and would have kept RWJUH nurses as the highest-paid in New Jersey. United Steelworkers also rejected RWJUH’s offer to further increase staffing – including accountability measures that would put even more money in nurses’ pockets if staffing levels aren’t met.

Seniors in New Jersey – in fact, all people in New Jersey – should be able to safely and peacefully access healthcare when they need it most. Patients are coming to these hospitals at their most vulnerable and do not deserve to be harassed while seeking care. United Steelworkers continues to keep the state’s highest-paid nurses from doing the work they love in a prolonged attempt to extract an even richer proposal.