& Hey there! All you Albuquerque teevee talking heads. Yeah, you! You Tom and Nicole over at Channel 4, you Doug & Shelly on 7, you Dick & Diane at Ch. 13 — you people who purport to cover all of New Mexico’s news, especially the important stuff. You missed one.
I know, you probably had a lot of other stuff going on, so you couldn’t unlimber one of your crack news crews and send them up the road to Santa Fe — you know, your state capitol? We missed you Friday. And you missed a helluva story — made for teevee.
Of course it wasn’t another domestic abuse story, or another one in that continual string of SWAT team standoffs with loopy drug addicts, or another three-legged cat caught in the upper branches of a cottonwood tree. Nothing that important, of course, but a helluva teevee story nonetheless.
It had controversy — a bunch of nurses and medical technicians at St. Vincent Hospital — the big medical center run by a corporation out of Texas named Christus Health — are flexing their union muscles, demanding that Christus use some of its money — a lot of which goes to high payoffs for high mucky-mucks — to hire more nurses and eliminate repeated incidents of dangerous understaffing at the hospital.
They were about to go on strike — you guys even read some wire copy about that not too long ago — until the hospital’s team of carpet-bagging union busters in lawyer’s garb, apparently very concerned that the Santa Fe public might actually start demonstrating on behalf of the nurses — caved in and agreed to a 30-day extension of the contract.
So, instead of striking on July 1, they are going to get back to the bargaining table, where — the union negotiators hope — they’ll actually start talking about things the management lawyers have been stonewalling for the past several weeks. Christus might actually get serious about trying to get a new contract ironed out before the end of July.
I don’t think they want to see much more of what went on Friday.
There were all kinds of great images, and lots of people who turned out at a park several blocks away from the hospital and then walked several blocks to the hospital. You missed some great pictures…
And kids and dogs and a tattooed calf…
And a few forceful speeches from union supporters like Santa Fe Mayor David Coss. “Why is the mayor at a labor rally?” he asked the crowd of 800. “Because Santa Fe is a city in New Mexico, and New Mexico is a labor state…we depend on a strong labor movement in New Mexico,” he said, “that’s why the mayor is here.”
Coss, noting that the bargaining between the union and management hinges on quality of health care, said that nationally, “our health system is a mess. We’re going to have to fix it, and it’s going to start right here.”
After the speechifying in the park, the crowd fell in behind Delma Delora, a 49-year-veteran of St. Vincent who was one of the original negotiators of the original contract between the hospital and nurses, hammered out 37 years ago. During those negotiations, Delora brought a small statue of the Catholic icon, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and would place it on the table between the unionistas and the hospital’s negotiators.
Behind her, the crowd sang verses of the old union song, Solidarity Forever, and occasionally broke into a repeated chant:
“What do you want?
When do you want it?
And they marched, lots of them, with their flags standing stiffly in the hot breeze. What a teevee picture! You guys didn’t even have to take notes.
And then they lined the sidewalks in on St. Michael’s Drive in front of the hospital. Both sides of the street, singing, chanting and receiving continued encouragement from drive-by supporters, honking their horns.
We’ve been told that Christus Health, which came into Santa Fe about three years ago when it acquired a majority ownership in St. Vincent, has 40 or 50 hospitals scattered around the south and midwest, and never has had to deal with the forces of American unionism before. It’s been evident to some — I’m included — that these newcomers might have had it in mind to try and break the union at St. Vincent in Santa Fe. They were prepared, they said, to bring in as many as 400 nurses from elsewhere to keep the hospital going. In the hospital business, they call those people “travelers.” In some other type of businesses, they might call them scabs.
But, now that Christus has been given a preview of what a picket line in front of their hospital might look like (Here’s a whole album of union-supporters-on-the-march.), negotiations might actually get serious. The outcome might just be what the nurses are looking for, and Christus can use the thousands of dollars they planned to spend on “travelers” and start scheduling a few more full-time nurses who live right here in good ol’ NuMex. What a deal.
But the pictures at the negotiating table — even if Delora brings her statue — won’t be that great. So you guys down there in Albuquerque teevee land will just have to rely on dogfights and traffic jams to fill up the 10 p.m.news. Too bad.
& Wondering how teevee stations define “news,” I’m outta here.