Top Democratic Presidential Primary Contender Weighs in on Local Nurses Union Controversy

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has tweeted support for two local nurses disciplined by UC Medical Center after an April Facebook Live video discussing union negotiations

U.S Sen. Bernie Sanders - United States Department of Veterans Affairs
United States Department of Veterans Affairs
U.S Sen. Bernie Sanders

A high-profile contender in the Democratic Party's presidential primary has waded into a controversy over discipline handed down by a local hospital against leaders of its nurses union. 

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont yesterday tweeted in support of Jennifer Donaldson and Michelle Thoman, two nurses who hold leadership positions in the Registered Nurses Association of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

The hospital in June fired Donaldson, the union's vice president, and gave a final reprimand to Thoman, the union's president, over an April Facebook Live post about negotiations between the union and hospital management around  overtime shifts. The union says Donaldson, who has been a nurse for 28 years, and Thoman, who has been at UC for five years, had no prior disciplinary actions on their records.

Nurses' unions across the state are advocating for better regulation of overtime shifts, saying that nurses at hospitals like UC Medical Center are sometimes asked to work well after the end of a usual 12-hour shift. That impacts the level of care those nurses give, the union says.

The union has cried foul over the disciplinary actions, saying they are retaliation that "aimed to silence nurses." The hospital, however, has called that "false" and says the discipline is necessary because Donaldson left her shift without authorization to make the Facebook Live broadcast. That, UC Medical Center says, endangered patients.

ONA has filed five unfair labor charges with the federal National Labor Relations Board against UC Medical Center over the disciplinary actions. State Rep. Brigid Kelly, a Democrat who represents Cincinnati, has also expressed concern about the disciplinary actions. 

Now, Sanders has jumped into the controversy.

"The @uofcincy Medical Center was wrong to retaliate against Jennifer Donaldson and Michelle Thoman for their @cincynurses pro-worker activism," Sanders tweeted. "I support the @OhioNursesAssoc and @AFTunion nurses standing up and fighting back against UCMC’s wrongful tactics."

Sanders' tweet shared a tweet from the Ohio Nurses Association, the statewide nurses' union, which linked to a petition asking UC Medical Center leadership to reinstate Donaldson and remove the disciplinary action against Thoman. 

The tweet comes days after Sanders visited Cincinnati to speak at a conference of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which represents 200 black newspaper publishers across the country. 

Sanders isn't the only presidential primary contender who has visited the Queen City recently. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another presidential hopeful with policy proposals similar to Sanders', held a rally at Bogart's in May. 

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