Howard University Hospital responds to low wage claims, patient safety concerns as strike looms

D.C. hospital workers are planning to strike Monday over low wages at Howard University Hospital, which said that it has been “working diligently” to reach an agreement with the union.

The one-day strike begins at 7:30 a.m. on Monday and will end at 7:29 a.m. on Tuesday. The District of Columbia Nurses Association — which represents more than 300 members that include nurses, pharmacists, dietitians and social workers — said in a news release that the strike is to “demand a fair contract and safe staffing to protect patients.”

Howard University, in a statement, said that the hospital monitors unit staffing levels, and it uses staffing agencies and reallocation of resources to make sure patients are cared for “in the safest manner at all times.”

Eileen Shaw, the chairperson for the DCNA at Howard University Hospital, said there are nurses worried about where their next meal is going to come from.

“They want to cut our differential. There are nurses that are head of household, and they depend on differential to make up their salary,” Shaw said.

The hospital said it has already implemented a first-year, hourly wage increase that is currently reflected on DCNA member paychecks.

After months of negotiating for better pay, the hospital’s management backed out of talks with the association.

“Howard University Hospital has been working diligently to reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Union, including participating in over 20 collective bargaining sessions, five days of professional mediation and numerous in-depth discussions, spanning nine months. Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to reach an agreement,” the hospital said.

DCNA said the university “walked away from the bargaining able” in February, and that faith leaders across D.C. sent a letter to university President Wayne A.I. Frederick demanding that he bargain a fair contract, but he “never even had the courtesy to respond.”

“How can you give excellent care when you are worried about if you’re going to make enough money to complete your household chores?” Shaw said.

In addition, Shaw said staffing shortages are affecting the staff’s health. “They’re tired,” she said.

WTOP’s Valerie Bonk and Dick Uliano contributed to this report.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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