Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) refused to make meaningful progress on key Merrimack Valley nurse issues during negotiations on September 19, and threatened to lock out nurses for two days following their planned one-day strike on September 27.
DFCI told nurses Tuesday it will spend precious patient care resources on travelers during its lockout rather than agree to a fair contract that provides secured benefits and competitive pay, enabling nurses to provide the high-quality cancer care Merrimack Valley patients deserve. DFCI made minimal movement on Tuesday, including no improvement on wage increases, daily overtime, or time off benefits.
“It is outrageous that Dana-Farber executives would rather spend untold money on travelers and lock us out rather than simply meet the needs of nurses and support the cancer care we provide in Merrimack Valley,” said Kate Mitchell, FNP-BC, AOCNP at DFCI – MV. “What does it say about Dana-Farber executives that they cannot compromise with nurses on wages and benefits, but they can bring in outside nurses to extend a one-day strike into three days? Dana-Farber’s decision confounds us and will undermine cancer care access in our community.”
The DFCI – MV nurses, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, are prepared to strike for 24 hours – and picket in front of DFCI – MV during regular clinic hours – after repeatedly trying to get Dana-Farber executives to reach reasonable compromises on key issues, including a competitive wage step scale and a commitment to maintaining benefits throughout the life of their contract. Nurses were required by labor law to give DFCI at least 10 days’ notice before the strike.
Dana-Farber executives have forced DFCI – MV nurses into a position to strike even as Dana-Farber has announced plans to shift its affiliation from Brigham and Women’s Hospital to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and construct a freestanding inpatient cancer hospital. This plan will cost many millions of dollars, while DFCI refuses to make reasonable investments in its existing nurse and nurse practitioner workforce in Merrimack Valley.
DFCI – MV nurses voted 97% to authorize a strike on August 2. Despite multiple negotiation sessions with a federal mediator since the vote, DFCI has refused to agree to meet the needs of nurses and instead wants the right to take away benefits unilaterally and unfairly and refuse to offer daily overtime. There is another negotiation session scheduled for September 19, and it is expected that the federal mediator will call the nurses back for an additional negotiation session or sessions prior to the strike date.
“We are prepared to strike if necessary to protect cancer care quality and access for Merrimack Valley patients,” said Kerrin Albert, Infusion RN at DFCI – MV. “We would prefer that Dana-Farber executives simply meet the needs of our nurses so we can maintain a stable workforce, but instead they have put us in this position to fully exercise our rights as union members.”
“On September 27, we would prefer to be with our patients, guiding them through treatment and knowing Dana-Farber truly values the care we provide,” said Errin D’Arcangelo, Oncology Nurse Navigator at DFCI – MV. “If Dana-Farber Merrimack Valley nurses are on the strike line September 27, it will be because Dana-Farber executives have refused to commit to competitive pay and secure benefits as part of a fair contract.”
DFCI – MV nurses held an informational picket on June 2 attended by nurses, community members, union supporters, and elected officials. Among those in attendance supporting the nurses were State Senator Pavel Payano, D-Lawrence, and State Representative Ryan Hamilton, D-Methuen.
“As you know, these healthcare professionals are on the front lines of caring for patients and liaising with families,” Rep. Hamilton wrote in an August 2 letter to Dr. Laurie Glimcher, president, and CEO of Dana-Farber. “They play a vital role here in Merrimack Valley by supporting patients through the hardship of a cancer diagnosis and bolstering our fight against this disease. But a lack of basic employment protections, the denial of equal retirement and benefits options, and a substantial gap in pay between nurses based in Boston and nurses based in Merrimack Valley are threatening the good work of these community members.”
DFCI – Merrimack Valley opened in 2020 with 24 exam rooms and 32 infusion bays. The location offers expanded cancer and blood disorder care and outpatient services for adult patients in the region. DFCI – MV nurses voted in June and July 2022 to form a union and join the MNA in an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. The MNA also represents approximately 600 nurses at the DFCI main campus in Boston under a separate contract.