PHILADELPHIA -- Well, it wasn't an Easter parade coming through Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, but it was a march by striking registered nurses and other Temple University Hospital health professionals that included lots of kids and family members deferring the activities that usually mark the spring holiday weekend.
On the fourth day of the strike by the 1,500 members of the PASNAP (Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals) bargaining unit at Temple, nurses with decades of service at the hospital vowed to continue their strike "as long as it takes" to get a fair contract and to be able to be the most effective patient advocates possible.
The PASNAP marchers made their way through the historic square adjacent to the luxury condominium home of Ann Weaver Hart, Temple's CEO, who according to an early 2010 report in the Chronicle of Higher Education earns more than $602,000 annually but who is, according to the nurses, key architect of the plan to bust their union and avoid giving nurses the freedom to advocate for their patients and the fair benefits and compensation they deserve. The nurses have been working without a contract since last September while Hart's current contract assures her of not only one of the highest salaries in the nation for university presidents but also grants her a car, a house and $75,000 in deferred compensation.
In the crowd of striking and marching nurses were grandmother Carol Kuehn, RN, her daughter Rachel Boss, RN, and her two grandchildren Alli, 6, and Danny, 4, all hoping to Easters eggs and baskets waiting for them soon. Just a few steps away, Marty Harrison, RN, watched as her son Lile fashioned his own Easter bonnet from a picket sign while his sister Tessa tried to keep arm's length from her big brothers creativity.
Two nurses from the neonatal ICU at temple recounted their more than 60 combined years of treating "their babies" and stories of the atrocities occurring inside the hospital as non-striking workers are being told they can lose their jobs if they even speak to or in any way associate with the strikers. Clearly, Easter weekend at Temple does not include a spirit of peace and celebration of the rebirth of spring.
Outside CEO Hart's condo, the strikers chanted, "Ann Hart you can't hide, we can see your greedy side." Neighbors of the well-heeled Temple CEO excited the building and some asked the marchers what the rally was all about. Nurses politely educated passersby of the issues and support in the square was overwhelming.