Sisters of Mercy medical facilities throughout the United States will be the target of handbilling by the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) in response to the unfair anti-nurse position the Sisters of Mercy have taken in St. Louis, Region 5 Director Al Vincent, Jr. announced today.
Handbilling has begun at nine Sisters of Mercy facilities in eight cities in four states, and will progressively be expanded to more than 200 medical facilities owned and operated by the Sisters of Mercy.
Registered nurses at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis, members of UFCW Local 655, have been on strike since December 15, 2004. At issue are the hospital’s demands to silence nurses’ collective voices about vital patient care issues such as adequate staffing and safe patient assignments.
Recently, St. John’s Mercy Hospital in Washington, Mo., took retribution against a nurse who worked there and at the Medical Center in St. Louis simply because she refused to cross the nurses’ picket line. Charges have been filed against the hospital with the National Labor Relations Board for the illegal retaliation against the Washington nurse. The Washington hospital is 50 miles from St. Louis.
“St. John’s and all the Sisters of Mercy health care facilities have a reputation of providing high quality care for patients. Now, we’ve been forced onto the picket line for standing up for those exact principles,” said Colleen Schmitz, RN, a long-time St. John’s nurse and negotiating committee member.
Beginning on January 3, 2005, Sisters of Mercy facilities targeted for handbilling are:
• In Missouri: Springfield, and Joplin;
• In Oklahoma: Ardmore and two medical facilities in Oklahoma City;
• In Arkansas: Fort Smith and Hot Springs;
• In Kansas: Fort Scott and Independence.
On January 3, 2005, UFCW Local 655 notified the Federal Mediation Service (FMCS) that it intends to begin picketing in Washington on January 13. The union’s handbilling will launch organizing efforts at each of the facilities and detail the anti-nurse agenda the Sisters of Mercy are showing in St. Louis.
“The hospital wants to silence the nurses’ fundamental right to a voice at work — gained under and guaranteed by federal law. This effort to silence its dedicated and professional nurse staff would undermine professional standards. And diminishing professional standards can only lead to compromised patient care,” said UFCW Region 5 Director Al Vincent.
St. John’s registered nurses are members of the Professional Division of UFCW Local 655. Throughout the United States, the UFCW’s Professional Division represents more than 100,000 health care workers in hospitals, nursing homes, medical centers, doctor’s offices and health care systems. UFCW Local 655 is the largest union in the State of Missouri.