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Workers at renowned Massachusetts hospital win hard-fought first contract

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Workers at renowned Massachusetts hospital win hard-fought first contract
By AFSCME Staff ·

Nearly two years after a contentious yet successful organizing campaign that generated staunch resistance from management at McLean Hospital, nurses and other clinical staff at the world-renowned psychiatric facility in the Boston suburb of Belmont have ratified their first contract.

These workers, who formed a union through AFSCME Council 93, will join the McLean Hospital research assistants, who recently ratified their own first contract, to form AFSCME Local 1115 McLean United to advocate for better wages, safer working conditions and improved outcomes for their patients.

This recent contract ratification marks the end of a long, hard-fought organizing effort at McLean Hospital. The 885-member clinical staff and about 145 research and lab assistants at the hospital voted to join Council 93 back in the spring of 2022, and were met with immediate resistance.

Executives at McLean launched an aggressive campaign to dissuade employees from voting yes, according to employees and the union. They paid five “union-busting” firms $350-$425 an hour, plus meals, mileage, and other expenses to hold more than 100 “captive audience” meetings to dissuade employees from supporting the effort.

Nicole Farzanfar, a nurse at McLean Hospital since 2020 and a leader in the organizing effort, described the captive audience encounters as “education meetings” that were merely “thinly veiled classes on why unions are bad for you.”

Farzanfar explained that the hospital’s anti-union campaign created a work environment that became untenable. Workers weren’t sure if the threats they were hearing from their managers were part of a coordinated anti-union strategy or if managers were lashing out because they felt their jobs would be on the line if workers formed a union.

“The hospital put so much pressure on managers that it eventually became impossible to tell if the things management were doing and saying was coming directly from the hospital or was just an offshoot of the tense atmosphere that had been created,” Farzanfar said.

After a successful organizing campaign to form a union through Council 93, and now their first contract ratification, Farzanfar remains more hopeful and motivated than ever.

“If you have enough people, and you just keep showing up, then changes can always be made. If you keep showing up, it’s inevitable,” she said.

McLean Hospital, which opened in 1818 as the Asylum for the Insane in Charlestown, Massachusetts, is now part of Mass General Brigham. More than 1,000 workers at McLean Hospital have realized the power of a union and joined together through Council 93 to give themselves a voice on the job.  

Mark Bernard, executive director of Council 93 and an AFSCME International vice president, congratulated the members of McLean United and Local 1115 on securing their first contracts.

“While all first contracts are a starting point for future gains, the registered nurses, mental health specialists and community residence counselors at McLean Hospital can be proud of a contract that achieved wage increases, guaranteed time off, quality of life improvements, enhanced safety and training language, union protections, and most importantly, a seat at the table,” Bernard said. “Welcome to the AFSCME Council 93 family!”

Welcome, indeed, McLean United.

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