More than 200 nurses walked out of Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts this morning and onto the picket line. It follows a year of failed contract negotiations.
The Massachusetts Nurses Association is calling for a “better” nurse-to-patient ratio at BMC to ensure safe patient care. Organizers expect to attract 1,000 people to the picket line.
Hospital management contends the union’s demands are unaffordable and unsustainable. The hospital says it made its “best and final” contract offer in May, and the union hasn’t materially changed its position since. Bobbie Gregory, a nurse who got off the night shift and joined the protest Tuesday, says the strike is the only solution left.
“We have so much at stake for our patients,” Gregory says. “It was hard walking out under these circumstances because we shouldn’t have to fight this fight. We’re talking about patient care. We are not a factory.”
BMC says certified nurses have been trained to replace the unionized nurses for five days.
"We are surprised that the union representing Registered Nurses at BMC has chosen to go on strike against the hospital in order to support their statewide political agenda, but today we are entirely focused on providing uninterrupted care for our patients and our community," Berkshire Health Systems spokesperson Michael Leary. "All services are being provided at all of our campuses."
Nurses on strike will not be allowed to return to work Wednesday even after the 24-hour strike ends at 7 a.m.