Union Nurse Leaders at Lehigh Valley Hospital Network Schuylkill Hospital Speak Out About Quality Care and the PRO Act

This press release comes from the Office and Professional Employees International Union. OPEIU Local 112 represents nurses across Pennsylvania in both private and public sector. We are proud to be Nurses United for Quality Care. 

On Thursday, March 25th at noon, while the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and Schuylkill Hospital’s Attorney, Edward J. Easterly, hold a joint anti-union, anti-worker seminar for area employers about the PRO Act, OPEIU Local 112 Nurses at Schuylkill Hospital (a joint employer of Lehigh Valley Health Network) will be speaking-out about the necessity of unions for healthcare workers. The nurses are fighting back against management’s demand for deep cuts and concessions designed to lower nurse pay and weaken protections against unsafe work. 

In 2020, American heroes working in hospitals showed how essential they are for their communities. Many of them, nurses included, had to risk their lives by going to work in unsafe conditions. As the coronavirus crisis continues into 2021 and deadly workplace risks remain, there has never been a more important time to give healthcare workers more voice and power. 

“We have seen during this pandemic the necessity for nurses at Schuylkill Hospital to speak freely about hospital procedures that may endanger patient safety and quality of care,” says Brandee Siegfried, RN and Union Bargaining Team leader. “The PRO act is historic legislation that will protect nurses who want to join a union and those in unions, as we use our voices to advocate for patients and provide care to our Lehigh Valley Community.” 

Research shows that nearly 60 million workers would join a labor union if given the opportunity. So why haven’t they? 

For years, policymakers, lobbyists and CEOs have stopped at nothing to keep worker power at bay. They weakened the National Labor Relations Act, the law that protects unions, and they have relentlessly attacked collective bargaining rights. 2020 underscored something else, too—how urgently we need labor law reform. 

Under current law, the penalties against employers who illegally fire or retaliate against workers who are trying to form a union are not very strong. As a result, employers routinely retaliate against pro-union workers, because they know it will undermine the organizing campaign and they will face no real consequences. This is especially dangerous in healthcare when nurses organizing unions are speaking out about not having enough staff to care for patients adequately, potentially unsafe conditions, and issues of quality care. “The PRO-Act will allow nurses to unionize without fear of retaliation or intimidation,’ Says Christine Newton, RN and OPEIU bargaining team leader. “Strong unions for nurses lead to fair pay, secure retirement, and medical facilities that are safer for healthcare workers and our Schuylkill Hospital patients”. 

For the first time in modern history, however, we have the chance to turn this around. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act would hold employers accountable for intimidating or terminating union supporters, protect whistle blowers, and institute civil penalties for violations of the law, including back pay and damages.