YOUNGSTOWN -- Management and striking union workers from Humility of Mary Health Partners and Forum Health were to sit down together today with Mahoning County commissioners and talk about issues at the heart of labor disputes at the hospitals.
More than 770 registered nurses at Forum's Northside Hospital and Beeghly Medical Park have been on strike since May 1. They belong to the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association.
Teamsters Local 377, which represents 870 service and maintenance workers at HMHP's St. Elizabeth Health Center and some of its satellite facilities, went on strike Saturday afternoon.
New negotiations have been scheduled in both disputes. The nurses and Forum Health management were to meet at 1 p.m. today with the assistance of a federal mediator at an undisclosed Youngstown location, said YGDNA President Bonnie Lambert. This would be the second negotiating session since the nurses strike began.
Teamsters are scheduled to meet with HMHP management with the assistance of a federal mediator at 3 p.m. Monday at a location yet to be determined, said Rick Kepler, Teamster organizer. This would be the first negotiating session since the Teamsters strike began.
"I hope the hospital comes to the table with a fair offer that is acceptable to our membership and which would lead to a settlement, which is in the best interests of this community," Kepler said.
Commissioner Vicki Allen Sherlock said she asked the hospital personnel to attend the meeting so commissioners can get firsthand answers about the disputes and can offer their help in resolving them.
The talks were to take place in open session during the commissioners' business meeting today.
Sherlock said commissioners have gotten calls from residents concerned about the strikes, and need to know how to answer their questions.
People are worried about crossing picket lines and the quality of health care provided during the strikes, Sherlock said.
Commissioners have historically not gotten involved in labor disputes, but Sherlock said she thinks this is important because the hospitals provide care for people all over the county.
Sherlock said commissioners do not intend to mediate the strikes, or pick a side, but want to encourage the participants to earnestly work toward resolution.
"If there's something we can do to help with that, we want to do it," she said.
The Teamsters strike turned violent Tuesday morning when a fracas broke out between pickets and hospital police, resulting in the arrest of one picket. Pickets alleged that a hospital police officer pointed a gun at a striker's head during the scuffle.
Restraining order: Wednesday afternoon, Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge Maureen A. Cronin issued a 14-day temporary restraining order, effective immediately, limiting pickets to a total of 52 and to certain areas.
The restraining order, sought by HMHP, formalizes a gentlemen's agreement reached Tuesday between HMHP and the Teamsters.
The restraining order also prohibits strikers from blocking driveways or walkways, gathering on HMHP property or recording license plate numbers of vehicles entering and leaving hospital properties.
The restraining order also prohibits HMHP's security personnel from threatening or interferring with people lawfully picketing and are restricted to HMHP property except to respond to unlawful activities.
Sherlock said that was another reason for commissioners to intercede and try to bring about an end to the disputes.
"Any time you have a labor dispute, it's difficult," Sherlock said. "We are concerned as commissioners and we want to see what we can do to get these things resolved."