Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals Bargaining Committee: An Open Letter to Our Community

This comment is from members of the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals Bargaining Committee. Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, AFT Vermont represents 2,700 nurses and technical professionals at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington. A list of signatories is below the text.

We are LPNs, RNs and APRNs working at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Our job, first and foremost, is to take care of you, the members of our community throughout Vermont and upstate New York. We show up to work every day doing our best to keep you healthy and safe so you can go home.

We work exorbitant amounts of overtime and watch in dismay as the travel nurses we work with earn far higher wages than we do when we receive housing pay. Our salaries do not match those of others working at academic medical centers in areas across the country with a similar cost of living. Until UVM Medical Center is competitive on wages, they will continue to rely on travel staff, which costs more than hiring a full-time employee with benefits.

UVM Medical Center and our state must do better. Even when wage inequality is fixed, there is still no housing available. Vermont needs mental health facilities and long-term care facilities now. Emergency departments across the state are suffering because of our state government’s failure to fix these problems. Even the housing built by the medical center is unaffordable for most.

Some lawmakers are wasting taxpayers’ time and money trying to reduce the power of the Green Mountain Board of Care instead of applauding them for taking a stand against UVM Health Network and the Vermont Hospital Association. Health care costs are rising at an alarming rate and the Green Mountain Care Board is the safety net for controlling the costs in our state that will be passed on to you.

UVM Medical Center is planning to build an ambulatory surgery center that will add to its already depleted nursing workforce. Their plan? Bring in more travel nurse staff.

This is unacceptable. You deserve to care about nurses who have a vested interest in our community. We have some wonderful travel nurses who would love to stay and work in Vermont, but cannot afford based on housing and wages.

Now we ask for your support and recognition. We are mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted. Moral injury is more than just a catchphrase for us. It is our existence. We are constantly being asked by our employer to do more with less. We leave work in tears, frustrated that we couldn’t do more.

We will go to the table to negotiate our next contract with our employers in April and ask for what we will need, which the hospital says is too much. That’s because it will take a lot to bring new nurses here — and to get current nurses to stay. Vermont is not affordable for those looking to move here and raise a family. We are working hard to change that narrative.

We have no doubt that the hospital will say that they cannot afford our proposals, but the truth is that they cannot afford not to. We need to recruit and retain bedside staff, not more executive officers.

We are fully transparent with our members and our community as a non-profit organization. Our contract is posted on our website. Our books and meetings are open to any member who wants to see how we do business. It’s a shame our hospital and network can’t say the same.

Again, please know that when we fight at the table, we are fighting to serve you, our community, the way you and our members deserve.

Sincerely,

Deb Snell, Jessica Kilpatrick, Kate Hesler, Ann Niekrewicz, Molly Place, Kacey Walsh, Courtney Gregoire, Julia Cronan, Helen Thurston, Jared Hoffman, Susan Tschorn, Jennifer Long, Rachel Foxx, Ann-Elise Lich Johnson Ejteny, Robert Heyn, Lucia Thomsen, Lulu Healey, Evan Ellenberger, Tim Schad

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