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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Defense Fund for L&M Hospital Caregivers Illegally Locked Out by Employer Raises Over $20K in Less than 24 Hours

Nurses and technicians maintain picket, file charges over insurance cancellation. Talks set to resume Tuesday
By Matt O’Connor 

New London - Professional patient care providers locked out of Lawrence & Memorial (L&M) Hospital a week ago by their employer will have access to financial aid through the efforts of their union. Lawrence & Memorial Corporation (LMC) last Saturday cut off pay and terminated medical and dental coverage for nearly 800 registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), healthcare technicians and technologists and their families. 

AFT Connecticut and its national union yesterday set up a militancy/defense fund that has already raised over $20,000.00 to provide relief with the economic hardship of the lockout.

"I knew I had to stand up for my community and for my patients," said Alison Silva, a CAT scan technologist with 10 years experience at L&M Hospital. "I am 35 weeks pregnant and the corporation has canceled my health insurance. I still think we are doing the right thing, but I just can’t believe they would be so cruel," said Silva, a member of AFT Local 5051, the union representing the hospital's approximately 250 LPNs and technicians.

Silva's comments refer to letters she and co-workers began receiving on Thursday advising that they had been falsely terminated and that their medical and dental insurance plans were canceled. The letters indicate a December 1 end date for coverage in violation of a legal requirement of a minimum of 20 days notice prior to termination of employees' medical benefits. Union leaders and staff over the past two days have assisted nurses and techs in filing over 300 complaints with the Connecticut Department of Labor over the matter.

"The outpouring of support from our patients, their families, and the entire community has been amazing," said Lisa D'Abrosca, a registered nurse with 10 years experience providing patient care at L&M Hospital. "The amount that's been given to the defense fund in less than 24 hours shows us that we're not alone in our struggle. And the people from all walks of life coming to walk the lockout picket lines with us every day give us strength to keep going," said D'Abrosca, who is also the elected president of AFT Local 5049, which represents approximately 540 RNs at the hospital.

D'Abrosca's comments refer to ongoing support for her locked out colleagues from the community as well civic and labor organizations and state and local elected officials. Connecticut Building and Construction Trades Council union members on Wednesday organized a cookout and potluck lunch on the picket line outside the hospital attended by more than 300. 

State Attorney General George Jepsen and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill on Friday were among the political leaders to walk the line with nurses and techs. Students from East Lyme High School today organized a contingent sporting their athletic teams' maroon colors to come demonstrate support for the hospital's caregivers.

"This community understands that we've always been there for them," said Stephanie Johnson, an L&M sleep lab technician with 12 years of bedside care experience. "They're not falling for all the false and misleading claims that hospital management keeps making about why they've locked us out. We want them to know that we appreciate their trust in us,” said Johnson, who also serves as Local 5051's president.
L&M hospital strikers
Johnson's comments refer to the latest ads in the "I Am L+M" public awareness effort, launched in October to unite the hospital’s caregivers and the community they serve. 

A fifth public service announcement began airing Wednesday on area cable television networks that features New London's mayor, local civil rights leader Don Wilson, and area healthcare advocate Ocean Pellett. 

A new print ad thanking the people of the region for their ongoing support is scheduled to appear in tomorrow's edition of The Day.

"We hope the corporation's representatives are finally ready to end their lockout," said Melodie Peters, an LPN who worked at L&M Hospital for 15 years. "And I hope they understand that this isn’t about their corporate image. This is about access to the quality patient care the people of this region deserve from their non-profit, community hospital," said Peters, who is also president of AFT Connecticut and served the region in the state senate for 12 years.

Peters' comments refer to efforts to resume negotiations in order to reach a mutual resolution to end the corporation's lockout, which enters its seventh day tonight at 11:00 PM. The first date LMC's representatives would make themselves available for talks is Tuesday, December 10. In the meantime, the nurses and techs will maintain round-the-clock picketing to publicly protest the lockout at L&M Hospital’s main campus in New London. Demonstrations are also scheduled to continue outside LMC's Pequot Health Center in Groton and Lawrence & Memorial Cancer Center in Waterford.