Howard University faced another strike yesterday, just months after students took over the school’s Blackburn Center last October and November for 33 days to protest unsuitable living conditions. This time staff at its namesake hospital protested staffing conditions and wages.
More than 300 nurses, pharmacists, dietitians and social workers began striking on Monday, April 11, after months of labor union negotiations broke down, according to WTOP News.
The strike was set to last for 24 hours and end on Tuesday morning at 7:29 a.m.
Affiliated with Howard University, the Howard University Hospital is the nation’s only teaching hospital on the campus of a historically Black university. Howard University is advancing plans to replace the hospital on its Northwest Washington, D.C. campus and is set to receive $100 million from the federal government to help get it done.
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Howard University has 9,689 students and an $839 million endowment as of January 2022, up from $417 million in 2009, according to Fitch Ratings. The 2022 tuition and fees of Howard University are $28,916 for undergraduates and $34,326 for graduate students.
Hospital staff said they have been working through negotiations for months to no avail over issues such as being overworked and understaffed, the amount senior nurses will get paid when they work certain shifts, and other concerns.
The District of Columbia Nurses Association (DCNA) announced the strike last week so the hospital could prepare and patient care wouldn’t be impacted, Fox5 reported.
“The difference between a healthcare strike and a construction strike if you will, this is not our desire to hurt patients at all,” said Edward Smith, Executive Director of DCNA. “It is our desire to make sure the public knows management has to give respect to employees who have earned respect.”
Smith also noted the increased sacrifice healthcare workers have been making since the start of the covid-19 pandemic.
“Two years of donning and doffing protective equipment, exposing themselves and their family members day after day, twelve hours with this protective gear and masks on…It has taken a toll,” Smith said.
His words were echoed by his colleague Eileen Shaw, a registered nurse who is the chairwoman of the DCNA/Howard University Hospital Union.
“Nurses are at the breaking point. We have given everything we have to Howard during this pandemic because we are dedicated to our patients and this community,” Shaw said. “But the offer Howard made is a slap in the face. They aren’t respecting us and they’re not respecting our patients.”
DC Councilmember Janeese Lewis George tweeted she was standing in “solidarity with nurses” at Howard University Hospital “as they fight for dignity and fair staffing!”
Journalist Mark Wright said the issues facing staff at the hospital are nothing new as he witnessed his mother deal with some of the same issues. He wished the staff success.
“Been seeing this and hearing this story most of my life. My mother gave 25 years of her life and career to Howard University hospital,” Wright tweeted. “Hoping for an outcome here that is fair for these heroes and sheroes.”
PHOTO: Howard University Hospital in Washington is seen Friday, Oct. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)