June 16, 2023

1199ers show their strength in New Jersey.

Purple Wave 01.jpg

Members poured into busses in Manhattan on May 16, to support some of the newest members of the Union family picketing Clara Maass Hospital in Belleville, New Jersey. Management is not only stalling in first contract talks, but also engaging in a hostile campaign of intimidation against the newly-organized nurses.

Glenda Eng, an RN at Clara Maass, whose employment was recently terminated without just cause, explained, “I am here with all my co-workers correcting the wrong that was done to me. I am a nurse and I know how to care and give compassion. But even though I acted within the guidelines of the policy, my employment was terminated. Management feels they can do whatever they want. Since we formed a union, we now understand that we have a voice. We have a seat at the table.”

Eng is one of nine Clara Maass nurses who spent National Nurses Week on suspension after being unlawfully disciplined for union activity. 1199SEIU has filed federal unfair labor practice (ULP) charges against the employer and continues to fight for Eng’s reinstatement as this edition goes to press.

Last August, some 540 RNs at RWJ-Barnabas’ Clara Maass Hospital voted to form a union with 1199SEIU. Talks at the bargaining table have stalled, with management refusing to address staffing concerns and huge gaps in pay rates between Clara Maass RNs and other nurses working in Tri-State Area hospitals.

Purple Wave 02.jpgAt the same time, management has engaged in a hostile campaign of intimidation against nurses, suspending nine nurses for attempting to deliver a petition on April 26, that had been signed by over 170 nurses, doctors, and other caregivers at the facility.

Earlier this year, tens of thousands of RNs just miles away in New York City—members of 1199SEIU and NYSNA—won collective bargaining agreements that provide annual wage increases of 7, 6 and 5 per cent, while maintaining far superior benefits. This has increased the already significant disparities between RN jobs in NJ and NY, and created further urgency to close this gap to retain the pool of nurses working in the Garden State.

Tanya Howard is an RN in the ICU who has worked at Clara Maass for 23 years. “We always had problems at the hospital, but when Covid hit, it just highlighted all the issues we had around short staffing and not being supported by management,” she says. “A lot of nurses left because they didn’t feel safe and supported. We were devastated by these nurses leaving. Our patient ratios went even higher, which put out licenses at risk.

“I was about to leave the hospital myself. But my daughter asked me what I could do to make it better. I made a phone call to 1199, and it was the best phone call of my life!”

1199 Magazine: May / June 2023