For those that have had to spend time in a hospital, they know just how vital nurses are.
Tuesday morning however, some local nurses weren't inside the University of Kansas Hospital. They were outside with picket signs.
Starting at 9 a.m., nurses and members of Missouri Jobs and Justice held an informational picket on 39th Street between State Line Road and Rainbow Boulevard with speakers addressing the crowd.
At issue is the contract offered to University of Kansas Hospital nurses as they have been unable to reach an agreement.
Nurses at the University of Kansas Hospital voted decisively on last Thursday to reject the hospital's final contract offer, citing management demands that would result in significant cuts in most nurses' salaries.
The management team for University of Kansas Hospital, asserting there was nothing further to discuss with the nurses, filed a declaration of impasse with the Kansas public employee relations board.
Their picket signs state this is about more than just nurses' pay, but about patient quality care.
"If nurses aren't treated fairly at work, patient care is going to suffer because the best nurses will leave," said Judy Ancell of Jobs with Justice of Kansas City.
Nurses from the University of Kansas Hospital stood on the lines voicing their disapproval of a proposed contract.
"They basically said, the contract was a best and final offer and we were told to take it or leave it," said Emily Harvey, an operating room nurse at the hospital and also the local president of the nurse's union.
According to members of the Kansas University Nurses' Association, hospital administrators cut premium pay for night weekend shifts, eliminated nursing positions, cut paid time off and changed tuition reimbursement policies. The contract did include a 2 percent raise.
Jill Chadwick with the hospital said they have not eliminated any openings and, in fact, currently have 161 nurse positions open.
Because of Kansas public sector labor laws, the union cannot play the usual bargaining chip.
"We cannot strike. We basically just have to stand together," Harvey said.
The University of Kansas Hospital issued a statement saying, "hospital leadership has pledged to do everything to maintain the high level of patient care and to avoid the layoffs other hospitals locally and nationally have gone through in the last several months."
Another statement released later in the afternoon from the hospital added, "The University of Kansas Hospital is committed to our patients and community. Our mission to provide continuous care is not in any way affected by this labor dispute or behavior. All those scheduled to work are at work and delivering care. We are confident this situation will be resolved in a way that continues to recognize the important work of our nurses and the outstanding care we provide."
Other unions from around Kansas City joined in to add to the numbers Tuesday, including bus drivers, painters and trade unions. Most were from Jobs with Justice.
"We believe an injury to one is an injury to all and the nurses here at KU are not being treated with respect, they need to have a fair contract," Ancell said.
Hospital administrators have been in negotiation with KUNA since July.
"I'm very disappointed today. This is the union's decision to picket," said Bob Page, the CEO of the University of Kansas Hospital.
Administrators said, rather than lay off staff, they are aligning nurses pay and benefits with the current market. They said, of the 2,400 nurses on staff, 450 are dues-paying members.
"223 rejected the agreement so, if you do the math, it's a small minority, only 10 percent of our nursing workforce that are at a disagreement," Page said.
The nurses said that they did not picket during their working hours. Some of them picketed before their regular shift or were not working Tuesday.
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