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D.C. Nurses Approve One-Day Work Stoppage

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, August 3, 2010

Washington Hospital Center nurses will call a one-day strike at a future date to protest the firing of 18 registered nurses and the disciplining of several others who stayed home during severe snow storms last winter.

About 42% of the hospital's 1,600 registered nurses participated in voting between Thursday and Saturday and 80% voted for the labor action, said Stephen Frum, shop steward for the Nurses United of the National Capital Region. Frum said the nurses have not yet decided what date to call for the work stoppage.

According to a statement from the labor union, 526 voted yes, 147 no, and 2 abstained. The vote surpasses the 2/3 majority required for approval, the labor union said.

Washington Hospital Center spokeswoman So Young Pak said nine of the nurses have already been rehired and were given back pay.

Pak also said the labor union "has not notified us of the results of the vote, and have not given us the legal notice that they intend to strike." She emphasized that the 526 nurses who voted yes did not represent a majority of the 1,600 nurses employed by the hospital.

The nurses labor organization said in its statement: "These firings and disciplines were handed out in violation of WHC's written snow emergency policy to nurses who made every effort to get to work during the storm, including some who missed work during the first storm but slept at the hospital to be available during the second storm."

Nurses United President Dottie Hararas added, "We hope that management will take this opportunity to do the right thing. They can avoid spending hundreds of thousands of dollars bringing scab nurses into our hospital and creating unnecessary risks. The new management team can easily put this behind them by settling these ULP charges."

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