Striking nurses from the Washington Hospital Center marched through downtown Washington yesterday, stopping at companies whose executives serve on the Washington Hospital Center board to protest what they said was the big business nature of the hospital.
The nurses, some in their uniforms, were joined by their husbands, wives and children. The marchers numbered about 200. The march ended at the District Building, where the participants listened to speakers including James Farmer, former director of the Congress of Racial Equality, and City Councilman Douglas Moore (D-at large).
"The point of the march is symbolic," said Dottie Hararas, president of the District of Columbia Nurses' Association unit at the Hospital Center. "We want the community to know that the Washington Hospital Center is a big business like any other and the same people who sit on the boards of the big companies we are marching by today sit on the board of the Washington Hospital Center.
"We want the community to know that the hospital has projected $1.8 million in profits for this year." Harars said.
Spokespersons for the hospital center were unavailable to comment on Hararas' claim.
The march followed another round of unsuccessful negotiations between the nurses, 255 of whom are striking, and the hospital on Friday. The nurses voted June 14 to reject the hospital's last contract offer and continue their walkout.
No negotiations are scheduled for the coming week, and Hararas said she did not expect the hospital board to make concessions in the near future. She added, however, that there is some progress in the negotiations but it is too "delicate" to be publicly discussed.
Tom Gagliardo, the chief negotiator for the nurses' union, said yesterday that there is some "movement," in the talks and there has been "an exchange of phone calls last night and this morning (Saturday)," between him and representatives of the hospital.
Gagliardo said he could not describe the current state of negotiations, but added that no future negotiations are scheduled at this time between the union and the hospital.
In yesterday's march, coming on the 29th day of the strike, the nurses were joined by several groups including District 1199 National Union of Health Care Employees, AFL-CIO; Montgomery County Community Health Nurses, Bethesda-Olney, and the American Federation of Government Employees.
The marchers chanted as they walked through downtown streets, causing some commotion when they got to F Street and moved through Saturday shopping traffic and crowds of pedestrians.
"I don't know much about their strike," said Janice Walters, of Hayttsville, who stood holding a large Woodies shopping bag as the marchers paraded past her chanting slogans through their megaphones. "But I've always felt that nurses never got as much respect as they deserve from the doctors. I wish them the best in the world."
Along their march from Washington Circle to the District Building, the nurses stopped outside 12 businesses that have executives on the board of the hospital center, including the Capital Hilton Hotel, Union First Bank, Garfinckel's Perpetual Savings and Loan and others.
Once at the District Building, Hararas spoke to the marchers telling them they were "the most beautiful people" she has ever known, because of the resolve they have shown during the strike.
James Farmer, now head of the Coalition of American Public Employees, told the grop that its slogan, "Nurses Rights - Patients Rights," was proof that they are fighting for democracy as well as union rights.
"I'm thrilled by the spirit you have shown through your four weeks of struggle," he said. "It has been an inspiration."
According to Hararas and several other nurses, the Ingeth of the strike has not caused many nurses to leave the picket line and return to work.
"One of the biggest problems in the history of nursing is that nurses don't stick together," said a nurse who asked not to be named. "I voted to go back in at the meeting but before we voted we agreed to go with the majority vote. Otherwise people are going to walk all over us. If it's one thing we've proved, we've proved that nurses can stay together and stage an effective strike."