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RWJUH nurses face loss of healthcare benefits after striking for 35 days

Demonstrators continue to picket outside Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital after union workers began striking in August. – Photo by @wobm /

After more than a month of striking, union nurses at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) have lost healthcare benefits and must now rely on out-of-pocket funds, according to an article from CBS.

Part-time and full-time nurses who are members of United Steelworkers Local 4-200 (USW) have been on strike for 35 days and have not scheduled further negotiations with the hospital, according to an article from New Jersey 101.5.

The striking nurses lost their paid health insurance expenses on September 1 and now must use the government's Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) to cover costs, according to CBS.

COBRA allows workers who do not have healthcare benefits due to job loss, reduced hours and other qualifying conditions to receive healthcare coverage. These costs are usually higher than their initial plan since their employer pays part.

Renee Bacany, an RWJUH nurse and union bargaining team member, said union members have yet to cross the picket lines and that some striking members have taken other jobs to alleviate costs.

"It is a crying shame," Bacany said to New Jersey 101.5. "We are about 1,700 nurses standing out on the street. We work for 1 of the 2 or 3 major healthcare corporations or health healthcare conglomerates, as I like to call them in the state, and we are losing our health insurance."

In terms of patient care, the hospital has employed traveler nurses to cover the hospital, as previously reported by The Daily Targum.

Wendy Gottsegen, a spokesperson from RWJUH, said the hospital accepted the union's staffing proposal and pay settlement and tried to avoid a strike, New Jersey 101.5 reported. 

"Ultimately, it was the union's decision to walk out," Gottsegen said. "We have said time and again that no one benefits from a strike and hope the union shares our concerns over the impact it is having on our nurses and their families."

The striking nurses are still waiting to schedule another negotiation meeting with the hospital, Bacany said.

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