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Health workers rally for contract talks with Alle-Kiski Medical Center

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

HARRISON -- More than 100 SEIU Healthcare union members held a rally on Friday evening to show support for efforts to reach a contract with Alle-Kiski Medical Center.

Amid purple banners and balloons, they filled Highlands Community Center in the afternoon, chanting "Contract ... Now!" and wearing T-shirts exclaiming "We are Family."

The rally was held by the recently formed union, certified last summer by about 700 nurses and other workers at Alle-Kiski Medical Center, formerly known as Allegheny Valley Hospital.

The union is negotiating its first contract.

So far, talks have gone well, according to Maria Radvansky, of New Kensington, a registered nurse at AKMC and a member of the union's negotiating team.

The hospital's administration is committed to reaching a fair and competitive agreement, according to Linda Dalak-Jaskolka, AKMC spokeswoman.

"AKMC has consistently been recognized locally and nationally for its high clinical quality and patient care," she said, "and our nursing and support staff groups are a valued part of the AKMC team."

Because this is the first contract, there is no deadline, according to Radvansky. More negotiations are scheduled.

But union rank and file are more anxious.

About 80 percent of union workers at AKMC signed a petition requesting a good contract that was sent to the hospital administration earlier in the year.

Increased workload for nurses and others is the main issue, according to union officials.

"Most of the workers in this hospital want the basic right for patients to get what they deserve and workers to get what they deserve," said Neal Bisno, president of SEIU Healthcare, Pennsylvania chapter.

Dr. Paul Reilly, a physician who works at AKMC, drew cheers when he said, "with the help of the SEIU, we're not going to be pushed aside."

Instead of nurses tending to seven patients, the hospital allocates 10 patients for every nurse, Reilly said.

Other speakers were state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Pittsburgh, and Bill McElligott, an aide to state Rep. Frank Dermody. Both legislators' districts include Harrison and some neighboring towns.

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