Claiming Care

Temple Health Systems and PASNAP need to grow up and negotiate.

Temple Health Systems and PASNAP need to grow up and negotiate.

Temple nurses are going on strike over pay and a “gag clause,” and neither they nor Temple Hospital is negotiating maturely or with consideration for patients.

On March 19, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, which represents about 1,500 nurses and technicians, set a strike deadline of March 31, this Wednesday. At issue are wages and a clause in the contract that would bar union workers from publicly criticizing the hospital administration.

The union, which represents about a third of the hospital’s employees, is half right and half wrong in its demands, and so is the hospital.

The gag clause is juvenile and counter-productive. The hospital looks as if it is an insecure boss avoiding criticism by stifling it. That won’t do any good. If nurses are unhappy or disgruntled, then not being allowed to vent or complain publicly isn’t going to fix the problem. What will stop nurses from turning to anonymous Web sites to complain, and how will that be less damaging?

The hospital needs to realize that stifling public criticism from its employees isn’t going to create a better environment. If employees complain without good reason, it should be easy for the hospital to refute their claims. If, on the other hand, a large group of employees brings up concerns it is having, then it may be a warning sign for the hospital to address the problem.

Conversely, hospital nurses need to settle on the pay issue. Their pay is similar to the employees of other city teaching hospitals, according to both union leaders and the hospital. Temporary workers are going to cost the university much more than the pay received by PASNAP members and will only hurt the care of patients, who should be the primary focus.

If PASNAP members really care about their patients – and we believe they do – they should accept the pay they now receive.

Both the union and the hospital claim to be looking out for the best interests of the patients, but their claims fall flat if this strike continues. The union is not looking out for patients by holding out on the pay issue, and the hospital isn’t going to help its patients by insisting on hushing its workers whenever they have a complaint.


  1. As a family member of a Temple nurse…if all the nurses are going to get is the same thing as other city hospital…why work there? Our car has been broken into, many friends who work there have been “mugged”, heck, things (of value…you cannot leave them in the car) were even stolen right out of the hospital. It is by far a much worse area than that of the other city hospitals. There are other issues to be negotiated also…if nurses are to be subject to random drug testing…why not docs…no one should be above that testing, it is only fair. The tuition for family members? The large hike and changes in health insurance? This is not cut and dry. My family member is absolutely worried about patients…the purported 850 replacement workers cannot seriously cover for 1500 and some of those striking are extremely skilled, highly trained professionals that are not going to be easily replaced. This is not a “broke” hospital…expecting nurses to give up pay for shift differentials, increased health insurance and in other areas given the high executive salaries and perks, as well as the recent spending in other areas and the funds the hospital has in holding, without reducing expenditures in other areas is unconscionable. These are not greedy people seeking more and more, they are the backbone of any GOOD hospital, they are the people who take care of the sick minute by minute, who advocate for better pain management when needed, who call the docs when things are a bit off….often saving a life. My family member works hard, long hours, often puts up with unruly patients, families, drug addicts etc. These people deserve better than this hospital is offering them right now.

  2. Same old drone. Wah-wah the execs make more than we do! Nurses make really good coin, the specialized ones make more than some docs. Temple is in a crappy area. I work in a crappy area too. I don’t expect a higher salary because of that.
    Does anyone else see how absurd the very people who are the #1 cost center for Temple Hospital are whining about health care costs? Look in the mirror PASNAP!
    Have you listened to our President? Health care is an out of control garbage truck. Time to tighten the belt PASNAP. The party that started in the ’70s is over. This is the decade of give-backs. Ask the teachers in NJ. No more land of milk and honey for organized labor. You are going to have to deal with the same circumstances as the average Joe does daily.
    We let the baby sleep in the parents’ bed too long. Now all of us have to deal with the circumstances.

  3. To David: i dont understand that why you think that the average joe getting shafted by the boss is a good thing? We have seen immense amounts of wealth in this country pile onto millionaires while real wages have stagnated for the middle class. This is not good. Workers need and should have some kind of control over their destiny.

    The union has already made compromising proposal drastic increases in what they pay for healthcare, even though what the boss pays is staying the same. the administration has made zero movement on any of their positions in months and has already been found guilty by the labor board of bad faith bargaining.

  4. David=
    The fact is that there are tons of nursing jobs, especially for highly qualified nurses who you seem to think make more than docs…..and I am afraid that if this strike lingers, many of these nurses will leave Temple. These are the kinds of nurses that there is a trues shortage of. BTW the ones that make more than docs are generally working 60+ hours a week and on weekends and overnight…ask your doc to do that!!@!!!!
    The most absurd thing is a hospital/medical organization building new buildings , paying outrageous salaries to execs etc at the expense of care. And, as most of America is aware of these days, the fat cats get fatter and the real working people are the only ones ever asked to give back…do a little research here, look at the salaries, look at the perks that these people get. Just because it happens in other places does not mean it is right or that we should just sit back and not fight this as a nation. PA leads the way in many areas of cutting health care costs, BTW. If you want real health care savings there are so so many things that would do more than taking away a small incentive to have people work overnight or on weekends or to “gag’ them in terms of talking unfavorably about their employer. As to comparing it to the teachers in NJ, while that is another idiotic place to cut a budget…NJ is BROKE, Temple is not!

  5. I’m a temple ICU nurse, came here for the college benefit, and it was yanked away after being on the job 6 weeks. All the area hospitals pay about the same and they calculate it a little differently, so its tough to compare. This really isn’t a dollar and cent issue. The Administration at Temple is using the “economic downturn” to bust the union. My question is “If they succeed, what will happen to Mr. Birnbauer? He really won’t be needed.

  6. I was on strike 6 years ago for 9 weeks. Remember the group that pays are the workers on strike. Management and the Union staff continue to receive a salary. The strike in the end made our union much stronger. Keep the communication to your members on the line regular and truthful. You are the union. My heart is with you.

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