Nurses and techs locked out in New London

By ERNIE GOTTA

 — NEW LONDON, Conn. —  Nurses and technicians are locked out of Lawrence and Memorial (L&M) Hospital following a four-day strike action. The lockout is the latest in a long list of dirty deals dealt by L&M owners.

The nurses and technicians, represented by two bargaining units in the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), voted overwhelmingly on Nov. 14 to authorize the strike, which began Wednesday, Nov. 27, as workers walked off the job. A representative from the AFT said, “This is the first time in 30 years that we [AFT] have gone on strike in Connecticut.”

The strike vote was called because L&M bosses had refused to bargain in good faith and committed unfair labor practices. This included moving work from the main hospital campus to other non-union sites in New London, laying off nurses and techs, and hiring medical assistants who work for less pay and are less skilled.

A lab tech commented, “They’re undermining the union. Experience is important, and the L&M management was chipping away at that every day. Now some 200 scabs are inside doing our jobs and providing an even worse quality of service.” Unionized workers in every sector of the economy are familiar with these tactics as business owners seek to increase profits by cutting corners at every turn.

The lock-out was called the day after a Nov. 29 rally had taken place in support of the strikers, which gathered nearly 1000 participants from the community, other unions, and local politicians. Workers were thrilled with the level of solidarity. A board at the rally listing all the different union locals in attendance at the rally quickly filled up as workers shouted out their affiliations. One RN said excitedly, “Even a Teamster truck refused to bring supplies across the picket line!” “We are L&M!” chanted the crowd.

The initial enthusiasm has remained, as the nurses and techs are determined to win this strike. L&M owners have tried to undermine the union by running full-page advertisements in the local paper with outright lies about nurses’ salaries as well as misrepresenting the character of the union’s strike action.

This is a strike about unfair labor practices, and not wages or benefits. A statement posted on the AFT website reads, “We want a resolution, not a lockout,” said L&M Hospital registered nurse and AFT Local 5049 President Lisa D’Abrosca. “The corporation is reacting in a reckless and irresponsible way to our lawful efforts to hold them accountable.”

However, the L&M workers are equally determined to fight back and will need to remain so as the economic crisis of capitalism continues its assault on the jobs, wages, and basic standard of living for workers everywhere. A for-profit health-care system spells disaster for both workers in the industry and those seeking care.

Socialist Action handed out hundreds of flyers to enthusiastic L&M workers, inviting them to attend a forum on Dec. 15, 1:30 p.m., at the public library in Hartford, titled “Patients before Profits.” Margaret Flowers, a national board adviser of Physicians for a National Health Plan, will be one of several speakers at the forum. See: https://www.facebook.com/events/479640938815831/

The Hartford forum will discuss the stark reality of the Affordable Care Act of 2013 (ObamaCare), as well as putting forward the idea that workers can build a movement to win a single-payer, universal health-care system for all. In the meantime, Socialist Action encourages its readers to join the L&M nurses and techs on the picket line.

Photo: Hartford Courant