Members of the Teamsters union working at Rhode Island Hospital voted Wednesday evening to authorize a strike. Don’t expect to see picket lines immediately.
The vote simply gives union leadership the authority to give the hospital 10 days' notice before striking. But members could walk off the job in a couple of weeks if they don’t reach a new contract deal with hospital management. A federal mediator has been called in, according to hospital officials.
Union liaison and Rhode Island Hospital employee Brooke Reeves said the deal should address what she calls dangerous under-staffing for nursing assistants and others who care for patients.
“This doesn’t just happen with our members," said Reeves. "It also affects the nursing staff, because when we’re short, they’re trying to pick up our slack, and they have patients to take care of themselves.”
In a statement, Rhode Island Hospital officials said allegations of under-staffing are false. What's more, officials said the union’s wage proposals are not economically sustainable. Should workers decide to strike, the hospital said it will hire temporary staff to care for patients.