Thousands to rally outside RWJBarnabas’ Clara Maass Hospital on Saturday to demand fair treatment of nurses

July 21, 2023

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MEDIA ADVISORY: for Saturday, July 22 10 a.m.

Bryn Lloyd-Bollard

In a major showing of healthcare worker solidarity, some four thousand 1199SEIU members, their families and community supporters will join Clara Maass RNs in demanding a fair contract that values nurses’ voices.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka will speak at the rally

WHEN: 10 a.m.-noon, Saturday, July 22, 2023.

WHERE: In front of Clara Maass Hospital, (GPS address: 1032a Franklin Ave, Newark, NJ 07107)

WHO: Hundreds of Clara Maass RNs along with thousands of 1199SEIU members, their families, and community supporters. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka will speak during the program.

WHY: Last August, some 540 registered nurses (RNs) at RWJBarnabas’ Clara Maass Hospital in Belleville, NJ, voted to form a union with 1199SEIU. For months, talks at the bargaining table have been unproductive, with management refusing nurses’ pleas for greater input on patient care and staffing concerns. When nurses proposed the creation of a labor-management committee as a forum to address workplace issues, Clara Maass said they did not need one because management know what is best for the hospital—thereby denying the value of nurses' professional experience in providing frontline care.

Management has also rejected proposals to establish basic quality-of-life benefits for nurses to care for their children and promote their own professional development, including 1199’s Child Care Fund and Training and Education Fund which require minimal investment by the employer.

In recent months, management has engaged in a hostile campaign of intimidation against nurses. This spring, workers picketed after Clara Maass suspended nine RNs with 100+ years of combined experience for attempting to deliver a petition that had been signed by over 170 nurses, doctors, and other caregivers at the facility protesting unfair treatment of another nurse. In June, less than five minutes into a bargaining session, a management attorney called an RN bargaining committee member “the most disrespectful nurse I’ve ever dealt with,” wholly inappropriate behavior that is consistent with the attitude management has displayed towards its RN staff.

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% while maintaining far superior benefits and labor-management partnership. 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.​​​​​​

“When we put our lives and our families’ lives on the line during the pandemic, management hailed us as ‘heroes.’ Now, these feel like empty words. During months of bargaining, we’ve called for changes that would improve staffing levels and patient care. Management has responded by disciplining us, firing a colleague, and targeting nurses who dare to speak up. Although we are fed up, we will continue to defend ourselves and our patients in this important fight.” - Barbara Villanueva, RN, ICU

“Due to chronic understaffing, nurses have been working without meals and adequate rest breaks. Faced with staffing conditions that could place our licenses and our patients at risk, many nurses have made the difficult decision to leave. We have made contract proposals that would enable the nurses to have meaningful input to improve staffing, but time and time again, management has said no. We will continue to fight for our patients and this community.” - Nola Ramphal-Mohammed, RN, PICU-V


1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in New Jersey and nationwide. We represent over 16,000 healthcare families in New Jersey and over 450,000 total members throughout New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida, and Washington, D.C. Our mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all.