by Taylor Marsh
The public support for the SEIU nurse lockout has been amazing. I interviewed Chris Moore, seen in the video above, as well as other SEIU nurses. Their courage has paid off, at least as it stands right now. It's an important fight for so many reasons.
Unions, as I wrote in Hostile Takeover, are the institutions on the front lines fighting for employees and against abuses by big corporate conglomerates whose only goals are to maximize profits. As this conflict shows, unions are fighting both for workers' economic rights and for the environments that will let them do their jobs most effectively - a key attribute indentified in the CAP study that all professional workers see as a major reason unions should expand.
Governor-elect Gibbons and Democrats Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid helped make this happen. After a very long four hour meeting late yesterday afternoon, the lockout was called off and the nurses can report to work at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday. The picketing is over, but now more work begins.
It's not over until there is a contract, but Universal Health Services has been forced back to the bargaining table, at least "tentatively," with two 30-day bargaining periods in place.
Frankly, I don't think David Bussone, Valley Health director for Universal Health Services, expected the public outcry and all the noise across the progressive blogosphere. When the new deal was struck and the politicians made their statement, Bussone chose not to join the people who helped move this crisis forward.
Nurses would return to work at two Las Vegas hospitals under an agreement brokered Tuesday by elected officials who said they wanted to avoid a prolonged strike.
"The labor strife is over, at least temporarily," state Assembly Speaker-elect Barbara Buckley said after a bipartisan group of four political leaders met for more than four hours with a top hospital official and negotiated by telephone with nurses' union leaders. "Cooling off starts December sixth."
Valley Health System released a statement saying that while the hospital group agreed to two 30-day cooling-off periods, there was no commitment that a contract would be reached.
Nurses convened an emergency meeting to decide whether to endorse the agreement and end picketing that began Monday at Valley and Desert Springs hospitals, two facilities with a total of 695 beds and a regular staff of about 800 nurses.
Under the proposed agreement, Universal and the union will meet for up to 30 days with a federal mediator to try to resolve sticking points, which were said to include pay and nurse-to-patient staffing ratios.
If no new contract is reached, the two sides agreed to let the elected officials appoint another mediator to oversee another 30 days of talks. No names were offered, although Buckley said it would be "a well-respected Nevadan." ...
I spoke with my contact from SEIU late yesterday evening and he told me the news, which made it to the airwaves and web late last night. Chris said the nurses were in good spirits and thrilled to be going back to work. Mind you, the SEIU nurses had been willing to follow a 30-day cooling off period from the start. It's Bussone and UHS that walked away and locked the nurses out.
The cooling off period begins today. Let's keep our fingers crossed, because this isn't over by a long shot. However, at the end of the 60 days there should be a new contract for the SEIU nurses.
So, Saturday at 6:00 a.m., the SEIU nurses go back to work and to care for their patients. There will be no repercussions for picketing UHS.