Here’s why we need unions

March 1, 2010

The Washington Hospital Center fired 16 staff members for failing to make it to work on days when D.C. was buried under three feet of snow, with the District and suburbs famously unable to clear roads and public transit for virtually an entire week. (How unreasonable is this? Read this story.)

This piece from the story really struck me:

“I see it as so unfair and uncaring,” said Shirley Ricks, a 57-year-old nurse who has spent her entire career at the hospital. “That’s it. You call in one day in the biggest snowstorm in history and you’re out. No ifs, ands or buts about it. . . . You go from getting a salary every two weeks to nothing. It’s scary.”


Ricks was scheduled to work Feb. 8, but looked at her unplowed street in Upper Marlboro the previous afternoon and knew she was likely to miss her shift. “My husband had gotten the driveway clear, but that was as far as we could go,” she said.

She said she called the hospital to explain her situation and reported to work Feb. 9, as soon as her street was passable. On Feb. 10, she spent the night at the hospital to ensure a second storm wouldn’t cause her to miss work the next day.

She spent the night at the hospital to make work the next day. But she missed a day, so she got fired. Luckily, these workers are unionized. A collective grievance has been filed, and frankly I’d be shocked if they weren’t reinstated. Had these been nonunion, at-will employees, though, they’d all be looking for jobs now.

Flying Whale

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