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LMC “More Interested in Strike Preparations than Mutual Negotiations”

“Why does the corporation running our community hospital seem more interested in strike preparations than mutual negotiations?” L&M Hospital Registered Nurse (RN) Lisa D’Abrosca asked on news of the advertisement. “We’ve been urging management to make the time to sit down at the table with us. Instead, they’re making arrangements for a strike even though our contracts don’t expire for nearly four weeks,” said D’Abrosca, who is also president of AFT Local 5049, which represents the hospital’s approximately 540 RNs.
 
D’Abrosca’s comments refer to management participating in only two negotiating sessions on successor agreements for both the hospital’s RN and its licensed practical nurse (LPNs) and technician bargaining units. Union leaders two weeks ago offered five additional dates when a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing on a complaint against LMC set to begin yesterday was postponed. Management agreed to just one additional session, despite the possibility that the board will reschedule the trial to take place just days before the expiration of both unions’ current agreements.
 
Governor Malloy also raised the issue of appearing to prioritize strike preparations over mutual negotiations in his October 17 letter to Chief Executive Officer Bruce D. Cummings.  The governor strongly urged LMC to take “every possible step toward securing a labor agreement before” existing contracts are set to lapse on November 16 for the two bargaining units. 
 
“I’m thankful that the governor was willing to listen to us,” said Stephanie Johnson, a sleep lab technician at L&M Hospital and president of AFT Local 5051. “It’s too bad the CEO has not been willing to listen to us himself. In fact, he has refused our offers to meet. That just makes the corporation’s actions since this past summer look even more reckless,” said Johnson, whose union represents approximately 250 LPNs and technicians at the hospital.
 
Johnson’s comments refer to attempts in July by the corporation to persuade New London city officials to grant expedited permission to use public property as staging for temporary replacement workers. Negotiations with management for the RNs and LPN/tech units’ contracts at that time had not yet begun, and the mayor quickly rejected LMC’s inappropriate and premature request. 
 
“This is another example of outsourcing patient care dollars,” said Harry Rodriguez, a health unit coordinator at L&M Hospital and president of AFT Local 5123. “Instead of negotiating in good faith, now the corporation is recruiting ‘scabs’ who work for profit alone and will follow the money when they’re done. That’s not what the community we serve deserves,” said Rodriguez, whose union represents more than 800 of the hospital’s healthcare workers under a collective bargaining agreement reached with LMC last year that expires in May of 2015.
 
Florida-based recruiting firm U.S. Allied, whose self-described mission is to “provide staffing solutions during labor disputes,” is now advertising for short-term tech-related positions at the hospital. The company specializes in placing “scabs,” the term for temporary employees that displace workers on strike, and claims to be the “nation’s leading resource” for employers in healthcare industry labor disputes.
 
“Exposing tactics like this and educating the community is what ‘I Am L+M’ is all about,” said Melodie Peters, an LPN who worked at L&M Hospital and president of AFT Connecticut. “We’re reaching out to patients, their families, elected officials — everyone in the greater New London area — to encourage they add their voice to reclaiming our community hospital,” she said.
 
Peters’ comments refer to the “I Am L+M” public awareness effort launched earlier this month to shed light on the corporation’s community practices. An interactive campaign website, www.IAmLandM.org, includes a petition and letter writing tool to engage supporters’ family, friends, and neighbors, as well as the first video airing on area cable TV networks.
 
AFT Connecticut, the largest union of acute care hospital workers in the state, represents approximately 1,600 nurses, LPNs, technicians, and healthcare workers at L&M Hospital in New London. Follow the union on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aftct.
 
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