Union leader, elected officials join striking nurses outside Windham Hospital
Elected officials and labor leaders on Friday joined nurses picketing outside Windham Hospital to draw attention to what they say is the region’s patient care crisis.
Nurses picketed as loudspeakers blasted Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.”
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, spoke at a rally.
“It was only when they set up a two-day strike that the hospital started moving,” she said. “This is complete disrespect for the people who sustained the community during COVID.”
Weingarten said the 100 picketing nurses had negotiated – unsuccessfully – since last December for better pay and work conditions.
“The nurses haven't had a bargaining session in a real way since June,” she said.
Elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-2nd District), joined the nurses, saying they were there to support a positive resolution to the contract negotiations.
In a statement to Connecticut Public Radio, Donna Handley, CEO of Windham Hospital, said administrators had offered the union wage increases.
“As Windham Hospital continues to invest in nurses, we need to increase wages for newer RNs — 43% of our nurses have less than 5 years’ experience,” the statement said. “Three months ago, on June 29, the hospital presented the AFT union an offer that would boost wages for these nurses by 20% or more over a four-year contract. A majority of these nurses would receive a 30% wage increase over that period.”
The statement continued: “At full-time, the majority of Windham Hospital nurses earn more than $100,000 a year — without including any overtime, incentives and shift differentials.”
Handley pointed out that the average hourly wage for Windham Hospital nurses, at $44.86, is already 5.4% greater than the Connecticut state average of $42.56.
But Weingarten said nurses, and future nurses, are discouraged.
“What’s happened is young kids, college kids, see how these nurses are treated,” she said. “And they say, ‘Why do I want to be a nurse?’”