Strike set at Sinai, Hopkins, GBMC

Three-day walkout is escalation from daylong stoppages

April 06, 2001|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN STAFF

Hospital service workers, who staged two one-day walkouts earlier this year, plan a three-day strike for April 19 to 21 at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Sinai Hospital, union leaders said yesterday.

"Some workers wanted to do more" than another one-day strike in an attempt to advance bargaining toward a contract, said Robert Moore, president of District 1199E- DC of the Service Employees International Union.

The workers also will distribute leaflets at Johns Hopkins homecoming that weekend to acquaint alumni with the issues, Moore said.

Hopkins and Sinai said they would continue to operate normally, as they did during the one-day job actions, using volunteers, temporary workers and nonunion workers from other departments to cover for the strikers. GBMC officials could not be reached last night.

"Nothing had to be canceled. Everything went on as scheduled, although a lot of people had to work really hard," Elaine Freeman, a Hopkins spokeswoman, said yesterday about the previous walkouts.

Jill Bloom, a Sinai spokeswoman, said about half of the union members there came to work during the last strike. "We will manage" during the next walkout she said, "but we'd like to get this settled."

The union represents about 2,500 patient-care aides and housekeeping, dietary and maintenance workers at the three hospitals. Its contracts expired Dec. 1.

Key issues in the bargaining are wages, pensions and ground rules for union efforts to represent additional departments.

The union is seeking pay for all workers of at least $10 an hour. The lowest-paid workers are currently paid $7.52. Hopkins said it has offered an across-the-board raise of 3 percent, plus larger raises for the lowest-paid workers. Under the Hopkins offers, the lowest pay would be $8.20 for new employees, rising to $8.70 after a year on the job.

Moore said the issue goes beyond the workers involved. "You've got a very poor city," he said. "You've got a world-class institution that appears to do much for the rest of the world. What it does here is important." As a large employer, he said, Hopkins "helps set a standard that other employers can work toward."

About 40 percent of the workers make less than $10 an hour, he said.

Freeman said there have been no bargaining sessions since the night before the one-day walkout March 15. She said the hospital has asked the union to return to the bargaining table, but without pressing for its proposals to limit the hospital's ability to oppose unionization votes in additional departments.

Moore said an open-ended strike could be called eventually if agreement is not reached. "There's always that possibility," he said, "but, hopefully, we can get this settled without even another one-day strike."

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