Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Nurses at Allegheny General Hospital threaten to strike

Allegheny General Hospital seen behind trees in winter 2021.
Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Allegheny General Hospital on Pittsburgh's North Side.

Nurses at Allegheny General Hospital are warning they could go on strike.

Some 1,200 registered nurses and nurse practitioners, represented by SEIU Healthcare, voted this week to authorize a work stoppage if their bargaining committee believes it necessary. If that occurs, the union will give the hospital a 10-day notice before the work stoppage.

A statement from Allegheny General says this sort of strike authorization by a union to its bargaining committee is a normal part of contract negotiations, and it doesn't mean one will occur.

Yet negotiations at Allegheny General are happening at a time when unions — both within health care and other industries — have been willing to flex the muscle of organized labor. That includes the 75,000 health care workers at health care behemoth Kaiser Permanente who went on strike earlier this month, a stoppage that ended with the approval of a new contract that includes a 21% wage increase over the next four years.

WESA Inbox Edition Newsletter

Start your morning with today's news on Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

At Allegheny General, the nurses union has agreed to extend their previous contact while negotiations continue, including a session scheduled for Friday.

Flight nurse Annale Yobbi is representing her union at the bargaining table. She said compensation is too low while the profession has become too demanding, and as a result nurses are leaving the bedside in droves for jobs at drug companies or medical device corporations.

“There is not a nursing shortage,” said Yobbi, but rather a shortage of nurses who are willing to work in unsafe conditions.

The union said it’s seeking a contract with a $40-an-hour minimum wage for nurses and significant increases for mid-career and senior nurses, though Yobbi wouldn’t get into more specifics since negotiations are ongoing.

Allegheny General is also not revealing much, saying that keeping discussion at the bargaining table will make the bargaining process more productive.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio. As a contributor to the NPR-Kaiser Health News Member Station Reporting Project on Health Care in the States, Sarah's print and audio reporting frequently appears on NPR and KFF Health News.