By Philly Metro WSA
On November 18, 2020 nearly 800 nurses at Langhorne, Pennsylvania’s St. Mary’s Hospital went out on strike as the second wave of the corona-virus overwhelmed their hospital. As nurses streamed out of the hospital and onto the picket line in front, they sent a message to Trinity Health Systems, the company that owns St. Mary’s, that they are understaffed, underpaid, and that safety conditions are dire due to the low staffing levels.
The strike was organized by the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals. Nurses taking part in the strike spoke to several local media outlets. They described how, several years ago, St. Mary’s hospital was taken over by Trinity, and that soon afterward staffing levels began to fall. Negotiations for safer conditions and fair wages began a year ago, but came to a standstill as the hospital struggled with the first wave of the virus. As the second wave of the virus approached, the nurses said they had to stand up for the safety of their patients, as well as themselves. In departments where it’s standard to have four or five patients to one nurse, nurses have routinely been caring for seven.
The strike lasted for five days, and was widely supported by local residents. It also drew nationwide attention. This action sent a clear message linking the tragedy of mismanaged corona-virus with the exploitation of front line workers.
Across the country, hospitals have been overrun and the crisis has been intensified by the preexisting inequity of the healthcare system. The St. Mary’s strike was valiant and reminded us that we can not separate the human rights of workers from the health and safety of all.