Mass. Poor People’s Campaign Supports Striking Nurses

Protestors from the Poor People's Campaign gather to protest in support of nurses.

by Jackie King

Members of the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign traveled from around the state last Saturday to support the nurses striking for safer staffing levels and better patient care at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester.

We repeatedly circled the hospital in a car caravan, honking our horns in solidarity, while the strikers welcomed us with cheers and waves and “thank you’s.” We joined the picket line at the main entrance, where union troubadour Ben Grosscup led us in spirited renditions of classic labor songs with creative “nursing lyrics”

The nurses, who are members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, have been on strike since March 8, after Tenet Healthcare—the for-profit, Texas-based conglomerate that owns the hospital—refused to negotiate with them over under-staffing and unsafe patient care conditions at the hospital.

Protestors from the Poor People’s Campaign gather to protest in support of nurses.

Those conditions have been exacerbated by the pandemic. In the last year alone, nurses have filed more than 600 official “unsafe staffing” reports. Patients have experienced potentially dangerous delays in medications and other treatments due to lack of sufficient staffing, excessive patient assignments, and cuts to valuable support staff.

“Patient care matters!” Vaughn Goodwin, co-chair of the Mass. Poor People’s Campaign, told the cheering crowd. “These big companies like Tenet are robbing us blind and rationing our care! And now we have to stand out here and fight for our lives and the lives of our patients!”

Savina Martin, the other co-chair of the MA-PPC, took the bullhorn to announce, “We are here to stand in solidarity with our sister and brother nurses because no one today, in the richest country in the world, with the abundance we live in, should have to die because of deteriorating conditions in a hospital that is run by corporate greed!”

Tenet has spent roughly $34 million so far in replacement nurses and police details to counter the strike, not counting the fleet of buses and vans to transport the replacements, or the installation of high-tech camera systems to spy on the picketers outside the hospital. That money could pay for the additional staffing the nurses are demanding.

After the rally, we returned to a nearby parking lot outside the nurses’ strike headquarters for a cook-out, where State Sen. Jamie Eldridge was flipping hot dogs and hamburgers for the crowd.

The MA Poor People’s Campaign is building a fusion movement which weaves together struggles of poor and low-wealth people and our allies to lift from the bottom up and transform society. Members of Mass. Peace Action also joined the demonstration.

 

Here is a song sung at the rally:

“OUR PATIENTS LIE UNDER THE COVERS” sung to the tune of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”-

Our patients lie under the covers,
Our patients lie under the sheets,
Our bosses lie over and over!
So nurses are taking the streets.
Bring in, bring in
Bring in more nurses to care, in there
Bring in,  bring in
Bring in more nurses in there!