WE SUPPORT THE NURSES:
We the undersigned residents of Winooski call for the following resolution in support of the nurses at UVM Medical Center, who are working for quality patient care and a fair contract, to be adopted by our City Council and other elected and appointed public bodies.
WHEREAS, the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC), based in Burlington but with facilities placed throughout our region, is a six (6) hospital network and home health care and hospice agency that is the regional Level 1 Trauma Center for northern Vermont and New York, thereby playing an essential role in the people’s health, safety and well-being, in the same way as police and fire services are; and
WHEREAS, the UVMMC is also the largest employer in Vermont, with over 6,400 employees, $1 billion in unrestricted net assets and a surplus of $69 million in 2017, and a CEO with a reported $2.2 million in income in 2016; and
WHEREAS, the UVMMC is also a 501c3 non-profit institution, exempt from paying local property taxes, with a mission “to improve the health of the people in the communities” they serve, and a key value to be “caring and compassionate to each other and to those we serve;” and
WHEREAS, to act in line with its non-profit status, its role in this community and state, and its mission and values, UVMMC has a responsibility to serve as a model employer, pay its caregivers fairly, and treat them with respect;
WHEREAS, in 2002, the nurses at UVMMC organized a union, Vermont Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals Local 5221, in order to improve standards of patient care, work to secure a healthy and safe working environment, and establish equitable wages and benefits for front-line healthcare workers; and
WHEREAS, the nurses’ union represents some 1800 nurses and other health professionals and is currently in contract negotiations with UVMMC management; and
WHEREAS, the critical issues in negotiations are safe staffing levels, competitive and equitable pay, and fundamental respect; and
WHEREAS, safe staffing is at issue because there are over 100 nursing positions that are currently open, thereby making much more work for existing nurses, which translates into less time with each patient and "moral distress" for nurses who know the right thing to do but face institutional constraints that make it impossible to pursue that right course of action; and
WHEREAS, a cause of the high number of vacancies is the non-competitive wages paid to nurses, which makes recruitment and retention difficult and is reflected in Vermont being ranked 47th in the nation, after adjusting for the cost of living, for nursing pay and that UVMMC nurses are paid less than nurses in Plattsburg (a smaller, “feeder” hospital in a lower cost locale); and
WHEREAS, while many nurses have not seen a pay raise in years and low pay makes hiring and retaining Licensed Nurse Assistants and other support workers difficult (so that nurses have to do their work when there are too few on shift), UVMMC pays its 15 highest executives a combined $11 million last year, according to published reports; and
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that in the interest of the well-being, health and safety of our residents and visitors, we hereby call on the UVMMC management and the Vermont Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals to find common ground and come to an agreement that is in the best interest of the community and (1) respects the worth and dignity of UVMMC’s nurses and other health care workers, (2) leads to safe nurse staffing ratios and a reduction in vacancies, and (3) pays fair and equitable wages to recruit and retain high quality nurses and support workers.