Nurse strike continues

Local politicians are urging Temple Hospital and the union to negotiate in good faith and end the strike as quickly as possible.

Local politicians are urging Temple Hospital and the union to negotiate in good faith and end the strike as quickly as possible.

On March 31, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, the union that represents the nurses employed by Temple University Hospital, officially went on strike. Since the strike began last Wednesday at 7 a.m., PASNAP nurses and union representatives have been picketing outside of the hospital on Broad and Ontario streets.

VALERIE RUBINSKY TTN Temple Hospital officials say they offered to drop the “gag clause” and implement the rest of their “last, best and final” offer for the PASNAP union.

There, passing cars honked in support of the nurses who held signs that read, “We demand respect and recognition,” “Our patients deserve better,” “Temple, put patients before profits” and “ER nurses, your first line of defense,” among others.

In a letter to Temple’s administration, members of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly, Sens. Shirley Kitchen, Lawrence Farnese, Vincent Hughes, Michael Stack, Christine Tartaglione, LeAnna Washington and Anthony Williams expressed their concerns about the “gag clause” and urged TUH to negotiate in good faith and bring an end to the strike as quickly as possible.

On Saturday, PASNAP members held a rally at Rittenhouse Square. In response to this rally, TUH issued a statement saying, “There are only two parties to the current labor dispute – PASNAP and Temple University Hospital. TUH is located at Broad & Ontario, in North Philadelphia. There is no reason for PASNAP to have attempted a disruption at Rittenhouse Square today. The strike against TUH is about wages and benefits only.”

Additionally, TUH wrote, “We offered fair wage increases to our nurses and allied-health professionals. The union is demanding a 14.5 percent increase for both groups. In today’s economy, their position is unreasonable.

“There is no ‘gag clause,’” the statement continued. “The Hospital’s Non-Disparagement clause is designed to prevent the union from continuing its disparaging attacks on the Hospital’s business practices and services. PASNAP is well aware of the intent of the clause, which in no way prevents our employees from fulfilling their patient-advocacy obligations. On March 24, the Hospital offered to drop its Non-Disparagement clause in its last, best and final offer in order to reach a settlement. The union leadership rejected that offer.”

Jerry Silberman, staff representative to the Temple nurses, said TUH’s statement was misleading.

“What happened on March 24 was that the mediator asked to talk to us. This was supposed to be an ‘off-the-record’ meeting, where the arbitrator makes an effort to get the parties together. It is not negotiation, which can happen only with our committee, and it’s supposed to stay within the room where the conversation happened. That’s part of the rules of the game of bargaining, like Geneva conventions in war, but Temple doesn’t respect them,” Silberman said.

“What [hospital negotiators] said was, ‘We’ll drop the gag clause if you accept the rest [of] our final offer.’ In other words, another ultimatum, not a bargaining position. We told him that was unacceptable. The conversation ended. It should have stayed there. For Temple now to misrepresent it as if they had made an unconditional offer to take it off the table in order to get a bargaining process underway couldn’t be farther from the truth,” he continued.

“Their reference to the 14.5 percent wage increase is cynicism at its highest, since the proposal by the union is for a four-year agreement, with those increases spread out as follows 3 percent, 3.5 percent, 4 percent, 4 percent, per year,” Silberman added.

PASNAP called on the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to investigate the potential violation of laws by TUH. In response to allegations of inferior or inadequate care during the strike, TUH officials asserted they are, “in daily contact with the Department of Health to provide ongoing updates. During the past week, the Department of Health visited our Hospital on multiple occasions in order to ensure that we are in compliance with our Continuing Operations Plan and all applicable regulations.

“We are outraged that the union leadership continues with its irresponsible attempts to frighten our patients and the community about the quality of care being provided at TUH by making unfounded and self-serving allegations. In fact, these antics support our claims of defamation against PASNAP that are now pending before the court, and demonstrate the union’s intent to use any tactic they can to garner support – even at the expense of our patients,” hospital officials responded.

TUH Interim CEO Sandy Gomberg stressed the quality of the hospital’s care during the strike.

“We will not engage with this labor union in a debate about the quality of care we continue to provide,” Gomberg said. “That is our responsibility, and in fact, PASNAP led its members to walk away from the bedside of our patients.”

Valerie Rubinsky can be reached at


  1. The nurses union is completely ridiculous. You keep talking about all the students that support the union but there are ones who don’t either. I’m one of them. The union is being completely absurd. People are getting their pay cut and the union is complaining that they’re getting less of a raise than usual? Not to mention they feel entitled to a benefit for their CHILDREN? Not for them. Their children and spouses. That is absurd. Yes, it’s unfortunate that the hospital no longer feels it can offer that benefit but plenty of people would be glad just for the chance at free education for themselves. That sense of entitlement is not pretty.

    Temple does the best they can in an area where no one can pay. The union needs to stop screwing the nurses and the patients. People are getting salaries slashed and they have the gall to complain about “only” a 4% raise per year? I know plenty of people who would take the almost $40 an hour they’re being offered.

    Unions suck.

  2. Alyssa-
    Speak from a base of knowledge, it makes your argument stronger. Temple reneged on its previous contract which did provide tuition for dependent children…NEVER spouses. This is a fairly common perk when one works in a University setting…one that your professors and many other employees you interact with at Temple continue to receive..
    Plenty of people would indeed take the salary, but the majority of them would not do the work the nurses do. I, for one, would not want that job. The University and its health system are not broke. The Health system is compensated with tax payer dollars that should go into things like patient care…i.e. nursing..people who go to hospitals need nursing care…if they did not they would not be admitted they would go home and get well there. The raises the union proposed are negotiable…perhaps the representatives form the hospital might try to sit down and actually negotiate. Some things that keep getting overlooked that are not so negotiable might be safe staffing levels, for example.
    You need not be a union supporter to support better quality health care. You are in that community and you know that Temple Hospital is a great facility that gives so many people a chance to get better care than they otherwise would….if there are ways to improve “their best” as you describe it, why wouldn’t you, or anyone else for that matter, support that.
    The nurses and other professionals want to be treated fairly in this matter…that means that they expect things promised them to come to fruition, that if the Health System negotiates a discounted rate for its insurance premiums their contributions will not double or triple…increase a little bit…maybe…negotiate it!
    Strong arming is not negotiating and will not work for either side here. Being disingenuous in the press..for example, early on Ms. Gomberg stated replacements would work at safe levels of 3-5 twelve hour shifts a week….read up on what the replacement workers themselves say about that little factoid…will backfire on both sides.
    In the end the administration looks bad, the nurses are portrayed as entitled or greedy, the patients are not benefiting from the nurse’s expertise if they are standing outside and the improvements they are fighting for are being lost in the shuffle. The casualty in all of this is a great institution’s reputation that may become irreparably damaged. If the hospital continues to take a hit like this , the people with the means to go elsewhere will and then Temple and the community it serves will really lose.
    BTW…are you a history major or have you taken any classes in history…unions fought for the reforms that allowed you to end up in a school instead of a factory when you were 12…they brought about shorter work days, fair wages, safety reforms and more. Whether you like them or not, whether you think they are relevant today or not…saying Unions suck, is a bit like flipping the bird….the statement makes you look uneducated and incapable of meaningful discourse. Luckily for you, I will assume it is lack of maturity and an outburst clouded by some sort of unusual emotion rather than a lack of education and an inability to do a better job in making your point. Temple is a good university…I am sure you have been taught well.

  3. dear entitled little alyssa
    Before you open your well educared mouth, plese know the facts. Temple is not now or never offering a 4% raise, the are offering a 0% raise. You obviously hane not a clue what a difficult job nursing is or you would not be mouthing off about things you have NO clue about.

  4. Unions have NO relevance in todays world. They are a major reason why companies like GM are failing….In this day and age they only protect the underperforming worker and make the union officials rich.

    The word on the street is the hospital is actually running more efficiently now that the lazy protected union workers are not there.

  5. Word on the street from what I hear is grave errors have been made in a hospital not running anywhere close to its normal census…LOL…wanna keep trading rumors…departments are begging for their staff back…LOL …What is not funny is the huge hit that Temple’s reputation continues to take…this should have been settled a long time ago, unions are relevant when companies cannot be trusted to stand by their word or their contracts!!! Temple has been found guilty of that…it is FACT BTW not something I heard …also fact Temple apparently thinks it is alright to do business with a company not licensed to do so in this city…also a fact…Temple has been found guilty of bad faith bargaining….also a fact…Temple hospital has the money and has spent more than it would have taken to settle this….also a fact….Temple owes many workers a great deal of money for unpaid tuition under the old contract…what is going to happen when they keep this up and court cases start popping up and Temple has to pay the money owed (they were ordered to already) and court fees and if the litigants are smart interest and penalties for added expenses and delays in people’s educations…it could happen and this administration’s bad decisions will continue to cost taxpayers, tuition payers, and donors more and more money….at what point is sitting down and truly trying to work it out not a more palatable option than this situation???

  6. BTW a whole lot of people think companies like GM ended up in their predicament because of mismanagement on the highest levels, failure to understand the market, failure to understand the need to make changes in gas consumption of their vehicles, failure to cultivate a reputation for high safety and reliability…there is no one culprit in its failure…BTW Hyundai is doing fine in the US …guess what they pay and how their benefits stack up..As of 2007 many non-union auto makers, in an effort to keep unions out offered comparable packages…Toyota even paid on average higher and even taking into account differences in benefits, the Toyota workers in many cases made more than their union counterparts…now if the unions did not exist…where would they all be?? The fact is, the workers benefits union or not are rarely what breaks a company…sure, in a few instances they may contribute…but blaming a union and therefore the workers of a company is a gross over-simplification of said company’s failures… you are entitled to your own opinion, we all have to share the facts!

  7. Marie – just remember 2004 Our Lady of Lourdes…You should spend your time looking for a new job…..LOL….The last I checked that hospital is still alive and running well. These are the facts. Go back to work.

  8. Um…I live up the road from that hospital..alive..perhaps…well maybe, but it took years and Lourdes reputation and that of the hospital was forever damaged in the community. People around here call that hospital Death Valley still (it was formerly known as Rancocas Valley Hospital). I AM NOT A NURSE…do not work at Temple in any way…I have family members that regularly(not now thankfully) use that facility. Yes, I choose to come to Temple from NJ for a few wonderful specialists, where my kids get great care from docs nurses and all who treat them there. My interest in this strike is mainly from a patient advocacy view. That, and I find it so curious that a company would do some of the things Temple has done to highly qualified workers that the hospital often almost bragged about retaining and having in place for its patients. I feel strongly that all issues in this case should be negotiable EXCEPT for those involving patient safety and patient care. When I see the Temple CEO basically snubbing sound research that suggests changes championed by these nurses (article at about staffing ratios) lead to improved patient outcomes I have to question the motives of the hospital and its dedication to the patient before anything else. As to the go back to work statement…I said it in an earlier post, I said it in this one, but one more time, I AM NOT NOR COULD I EVER BE A NURSE, taking care of my two that are chronically ill is hard enough….UGH!!

  9. I think it is uncalled for to create a strike. Sounds to me like the nurses are putting themselves before the patients. I am also a registered nurse and have experienced the “hard work” many have described. I also know that my income is no where near insufficient. There are many workers in the US who do not recieve adequate pay for their body destroying work, such as those who cater to our selfish lifestyles. With the economy the way it is, many people are suffering. Be happy with what you have and thankful you have a job, at least for now. You need to reflect back to nursing school when hopefully you were there for the right reasons. Remember, the patient always comes first!!

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