Registered nurses at New Milford Hospital last month ratified a strong new union contract with their employer after months of escalating, organized member engagement. Caregivers at the 85-bed acute care facility, part of the Nuance Health-owned Western Connecticut Health Network, last fall began mobilizing in support of the effort.
“It started with recruiting newer union members to our negotiating committee (photo, above),” said Susan Salmonese, RN, a nurse in the hospital’s emergency department. “That resulted in a large, diverse team. Plus it proved to be a highly effective organizing committee, too,” added Salmonese, who serves as president of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated New Milford Federation of Registered Nurses.
The pandemic and spiking COVID-19 cases limited activities outside the hospital, Salmonese explained. “We responded by focusing on worksite efforts to generate interest and motivate activism,” she said.
The negotiating committee in November began passing out stickers promoting one of their priority proposals in negotiations — safe patient limits. “The message that we were ‘fighting for safe staffing’ was unifying and really resonated,” said Salmonese.
for photos of nurses wearing stickers at New Milford Hospital.
The bargaining team six weeks later secured a tentative agreement for a contract that included a provision establishing a staffing committee under Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) supervision.
“It’s always rewarding to win on issues that matter,” observed Salmonese.
With AFT Connecticut field representative Ben Wenograd’s guidance, the team also negotiated annual wage increases for all members during each of the next three years. They additionally won bonuses for members on step movement over the first two, as well as increased paid time off and protections against investigatory suspensions for the full term of the pact.
The membership in late December ratified the agreement, which was retroactive upon approval to last October 1.
for photos of nurses casting their ballots on the new contract.
Our New Milford nurses’ victory was among seven tentative agreements reached since our previous collective bargaining report in September (two of which at press time had not yet been ratified).
for the announcement of our Region 13 Support Staff Association’s vote to approve their new contract.
to watch a brief video on our Backus Federation of Nurses’ victory after their successful strike.
for photos of our Simsbury Federation of Education Personnel ratifying their new agreement.
for the notice of a first contract for instructional assistants in our EASTCONN Federation of Educational Personnel.