Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, United Nurses & Allied Professionals Local 5082
In 1986, a small group of Maternity and Intensive Care nurses gathered to talk about joining a union. Their goal was to achieve a voice in the workplace through organization and collective action. By participating in decision making they sought to improve working conditions and patient care.
These nurses then met with Jack Callaci, a Field Representative of the American Federation of Teachers. Jack assisted these nurses to form an organizing committee that soon grew to include other professionals throughout the hospital. Over the next year, this group of highly motivated, determined, and dedicated individuals worked together toward their common goal of building a union.
It was a daily challenge, but nonetheless a challenge these committee members were prepared to overcome. Despite the hiring of a very high priced antiunion machine, the hospital eventually became unable to defend or justify their past history of favoritism and petty policies. In the meantime, the slow but steady swell of support in favor of unionizing soon became palpable throughout the hospital.
On December 18, 1987, an election was held and employees of Pawtucket Memorial Hospital voted to unionize, becoming members of the Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (FNHP), the RI Affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. Our Local, 5082, achieved its first collective bargaining agreement in August 1988.
In 1990, members of the local were forced to endure another challenge when the employer, unable to accept the collective voice of its employees as a union, launched a campaign to decertify Local 5082. The hospital enlisted their union buster and petitioned the National Labor Relations Board resulting in another election. The members of Local 5082, proud of their achievements, and alert to all the benefits provided them through organizing, voted to continue their union affiliation. For a second time, and in greater numbers, the members of Local 5082 were once again triumphant.
In July 1998, members of Local 5082, as well as six other FNHP/RI Locals, voted to disaffiliate from the American Federation of Teachers. In October 1998, these locals officially changed their name to the United Nurses & Allied Professionals (UNAP).
The contract negotiations that occurred in 2006, although very contentious, brought about two very significant successes for the local. First, An Administrative Law Judge found the hospital guilty of two unfair labor charges, stemming from unlawful actions carried out by supervisors against our members during negotiations. This decision culminated in the return of the once banished “KNOW RESPECT” buttons to be freely worn in the workplace. Secondly, in the absence of an agreement at the bargaining table with the employer regarding the unfair and unsafe practice of mandatory overtime, our members decided to take their fight to the State House.
In October 2007, members of the General Assembly overrode Governor Carcieri’s veto, and the Mandatory Overtime Bill was passed into law. Through the concerted efforts of lawmakers, and unionized health care workers in the State of Rhode Island, registered nurses and their patients would no longer be subjected to the harmful effects of mandatory overtime.
In 2009, despite our employer proposing a first year “wage freeze” throughout the summer long contract negotiations, we stood firm in our proposal of “no wage freeze”. Our membership strongly opposed the hospitals ‘wage freeze’ and refused to budge on this issue. It wasn’t until the last few hours of bargaining that the hospital changed its wage proposal and withdrew the “wage freeze”. Our determination and unity as a local was undoubtedly the reason the hospital altered their position.
In 2012, with MHRI losing approximately 13 million dollars/year, MHRI and Care New England announced plans to affiliate. Coincidently, our Collective Bargaining Agreement with MHRI was due to expire in 2012. The hospital was proposing to freeze the Defined Benefit Pension Plan and replace it with a Defined Contribution Plan. After several months of negotiations, in August 2012 the membership voted overwhelmingly to reject the hospital's final contract offer. In March 2013, the hospital revised their final contract offer. Despite the fact that the revised final offer as proposed by the hospital would be brought to the membership for a vote, the negotiation team never gave up. They still believed the members deserved better.
By the time the membership voted to accept the contract on April 15, 2013, because we rejected MHRI's final offer in August, because we stuck together, because we held out for a better contract for employees and their families, our new contract is far superior to the previous final offers proposed by the hospital. Our local is also beginning to develop a new partnership with CNE even prior to the completion of the affiliation process.
The members of Local 5082 have a history that is rich with victories and tumultuous with the employer. The local remains committed to quality care while improving the working conditions and economic well being of its members. Although the hospital’s name has changed to Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, and the times are definitely different, the leadership of Local 5082 continues to build upon the vision and goals set by its predecessors.
While the individual members may come and go, the core values of the local remain constant. It is through the participation and involvement of its members that Local 5082 achieved its successes throughout the years. Since these successes would not be possible without membership involvement, maybe it’s time to ask, “Am I ready to get involved?”
OUR HISTORY depends on YOU!