Senior citizens rally to support nurses
By Jocelyn Meek, Enterprise staff writer
BROCKTON-In a show of solidarity for striking Brockton Hospital nurses, 150 senior citizens from across the state joined the picket line Thursday morning.
"We're in support of the nurses, the caregivers we depend on," said Phil Mamber, president of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council. "They're fighting the fight for our health and safety."
Mamber and other MSAC members rallied with some of striking nurses on the 49th day of the walkout. Outside the Centre Street hospital, the seniors waved signs, encouraged passing cars to honk their horns in support and sent a loud message to hospital administrators.
Nellie Edey of Cambridge came not only to support the Brockton nurses, but health care providers across the state. Edey's daughter is a nurse.
"They've been out here long enough. It's time for somebody to do something for them," said Edey, who was wearing a "We're not laughing at understaffing" sign around her neck. "I'm supporting these nurses and all nurses everywhere. This mandatory overtime is for the birds."
The nurses walked out May 25, protesting what they view as inadequate staffing levels at the hospital, the use of mandatory overtime and proposed salary increases.
The last time union officials sat down with hospital administrators was July 3, and those talks went nowhere.
Heartened by the turnout of seniors, the nurses Thursday chanted "We will win! We will win!" as passing cars honked in support.
Barbara Cooke, a medical-surgical unit nurse who has worked at the hospital 17 years, said the turnout "really got me emotional."
"These are the people we actually take care of," Cooke said, surveying the crowd. "And they get it. They know we are fighting the good fight for better quality of care."
The strike, in its 50th day, has now outlasted a similar nurses' strike at St. Vincent's Hospital in Worcester last year.
Brockton Hospital Vice President Bob Hughes said he wasn't sure why the Massachusetts Senior Action Council would become involved in the strike.
"I am curious what qualifies them to comment on this at all," Hughes said. "No one from the Mass. Senior Action Council contacted us for facts or data regarding this issue. I would classify them as outside agitators."
Isaac BenEzra rode a bus from Amherst to be at the rally. BenEzra, who had 12 surgeries resulting from a car accident seven years ago, came to share "the patient's perspective."
"We're not paying for adequate care, we will not settle for anything less than quality care," he said, leaning on a walker. "We want hospitals to work for people and not for profit."
Paul "Red" Sullivan of Brockton and his wife, Jean, have been giving their time walking the line with the nurses out of gratitude for care they received over the years.
"This is what I call a thank you," Sullivan said, unfolding a chair on the sidewalk across from the hospital. "The nurses, they went above and beyond. They deserve more help."
The seniors were joined by state Sen. Stephen Lynch, D-South Boston, a 9th District congressional candidate, and Sen. Cheryl Jacques, D-Needham, who encouraged the nurses to keep up their spirits and stay true to their cause.
Present and retired union members from the Steel Workers, United Auto Workers and Communication Workers, among other unions, also were present.
Mary Margaret Trudeau of Marlboro is a retired nurse. Trudeau said mandatory overtime is a health and safety risk for everyone involved.
"A person goes into nursing to take care of people, they don't go into it for the money. To work for 16 hours is just ridiculous," Trudeau said. "If one of the (hospital) hotshots got sick, wouldn't they want a nurse working 8 hours, with a bright mind and rested body?"
Joyce Bishop of Easton, a 27-year nurse at the hospital, said the seniors provided her with a boost after so long walking the line.
"It's a good feeling to know they're here and that they care," Bishop said. "They know the issues and they know what's at stake here, it's not just about nurses, it's about the quality of care."