The chief executive officer of the Washington Hospital Center asked the director of Howard University Hospital not to hire as temporary employes hospital center nurses who are on strike, officials of both hospitals confirmed yesterday.
The request was made by hospital center chief Richard M. Loughery, according to a spokeswoman, in hopes "that things (the strike) would be over sooner that way."
The striking nurses, who have been picketing the hospital center since their strike began last Saturday, had earlier yesterday called a press conference to accuse the hospital of attempting to blacklist striking nurses in order to prevent them from finding temporary employment.
Dr. Charles Ireland, Howard's director said yesterday, "I've talked with Mr. Loughery on a couple of occasions and he had expressed some unhappiness about their (striking WHC nurses) working in the pool" of nurses available to fill temporary vacancies.
Asked about the conversation between the two directors, hospital center spokeswoman Jane Snyder, after consulting with Loughery, said, "Yes, Dr. Ireland offered to help and Mr. Loughery suggested there was a way he could help. He has not spoken to any other hospital, only to this one."
Did Loughery ask Ireland not hire WHC striking nurses to work at Howard?"Yes," replied Snyder. "He said that things would be over sooner that way."
Deborah James, one of the roughly 60 percent of the hospital's 425 staff nurses on strike, said she had worked at Howard Wednesday, but received a call Wednesday night from the agency that had hired her telling her "that the hospital center had called Howard and asked them not to honor nurses from the Hospital Center.
"The agency called to say that my services would no longer be needed at Howard University Hospital." said James, who normally works in one of the hospital center's postoperative units. "I think the hospital center owes me an apology. I think they do."
Ireland said yesterday, however, that "we have instructed our pool (of nurses) that we would accept any qualified people according to our needs. We have 16 people working here today who we estimate came from the Washington Hospital Center."
Ireland has assured the District of Columbia Nurses Association, which represents the striking nurses, that Howard will remain neutral, and DCNAA attorney Thomas Gagliardo said the union "applauds Dr. Ireland for taking that stand."
An expert in labor relations law, who asked not to be identified, said the conversations between Loughery and Ireland do not fit the definition of the "normal black listing activity," but did nonetheless "raise some interesting questions.
"The normal blacklisting situation is where people are known as union activists and are either blacklisted by their employer for rehire, or by other employers, who reject them as potential employes," the expert said.
Section 883 of the National Labor Relations Act prohibits discrimination aganst employes or potential employes because of their union activity.
The question of the temporary employment of nurses is a crucial one in determining both the length and potential outcome of the area's first strike by registered nurses.
Because the nurses' union is a new one, it has no strike fund to speak of, and the nurses need to find other ways to financially maintain themselves during the strike.
Unlike most other cities, Washington is a sellers' market for nurses, with 97 classified "nurse wanted" ads in last Sunday's Washington Post and more than two dozen nursing employment agencies.
"We're placing them where ever we can. We can always use RNs," Don Meditemp, a medical staffing agency, said. "There are jobs available. It's just up to the nurse whether she takes them or not."