Temple nurses union won’t mince words over controversial contract clause

    The dispute between management and striking nurses at Temple University Hospital includes a quarrel over put-downs and name calling.

    The dispute between management and striking nurses at Temple University Hospital includes a quarrel over put-downs and name calling.

    Temple’s chief executive says the nurses union has a history of bad mouthing the hospital, so her latest contract offer included a non-disparagement clause. CEO Sandy Gomberg says the clause is intended to prevent the union, not individual workers, from putting down the hospital or its business practices.

    But a lead negotiator for the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals says there’s no separating the union from the workers.

    Striking nurses call Temple’s proposal a “gag clause.”

    Philadelphia labor attorney Daniel O’Meara says the fact that Temple proposed the non-disparagement clause suggests an atypical break down in negotiations.

    O’Meara: It is unusual for an employer to demand a provision like this. The thought is maybe you are making too big a deal about it. Employees are going to do what employees are going to do, so trying to muzzle it may not really get you anywhere.

    O’Meara says workers below the management level don’t have the right to disparage their employer’s products and services, but they are free to complain about their jobs and working conditions without facing discipline.

    Gomberg says there is no gag clause.

    Gomberg: Individual nurses can speak to whomever they like about whatever they would like, the important part is that they have an obligation within this organization to bring concerns or observations to the attention of the management team.

    Union officials read Temple’s proposal differently. They say the clause could block nurses from going public about hospital staffing or other safety issues.

    Bill Cruice is executive director of the nurses union.

    Cruice:
    Temple’s proposal prevents the union and its members from criticizing or speaking out publicly in any way that Temple administrators deem to be critical of Temple or the administration.

    He says the union will never agree to the non-disparagement clause.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.