More than 500 workers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia hit picket lines along 34th Street and Civic Center Boulevard at midnight yesterday, protesting for wage and benefit increases as their contracts with the hospital expired. Because the strikers blocked ambulances, patients and non-striking workers from entering the hospital, Common Pleas Court Judge John J. Poserina issued an injunction early Wednesday requiring most protesters to back off from the entrances. By yesterday afternoon, well over 100 people -- more than a fifth of the potential strikers -- were arrested for violating the injuction, police said. Among those arrested was local union president Henry Nicholas. Police brought buses to the scene in the event mass arrests became necessary, and a heightened hospital security force guarded the doors and videotaped demonstrators. "We are running at 100 percent," Hospital spokesperson Pat Rocchi said yesterday morning. "We have not been turning away patients." At midnight, members of District Council 1199C of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Workers blocked entrance doors and driveways to the hospital and summarized their demands in chants such as "No contract, no work." Others drove by along the street, waving flags and protest signs. A surgical resident who attempted to enter a parking garage behind CHOP yesterday morning was alledgly surrounded by picketers. Two demonstrators reportedly claim they were injured when a striking worker alledgely broke the resident's car window with a brick, and the resident reacted by accelerating. According to Rocchi, the resident -- who was on his first day of rotation at CHOP -- was treated at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for minor injuries and released. He reportedly knows the name of the alledged brick thrower and plans a civil suit, Rocchi said. In another incident, demonstrators threw a rock and broke glass in one of the doors along the 34th Street entrance to the hospital. Also, Rochhi said two children transported to CHOP's emergency room early yesterday were directed to other hospitals because demonstrators refused to allow ambulances into the hospital. CHOP has hired temporary replacement workers to handle the housekeeping and food service duties of the striking workers, and also reassigned non-striking workers to cover for the strikers. "We were prepared for this," Rocchi said. Demonstrators also seemed prepared. One striker said early Wednesday morning that he was impressed by the picket-line turnout and said he even enjoyed chanting and protesting, but that he hoped to be back at work soon under a new and improved contract. "My little ones have got to eat," said Gene Davis, a Linen Services employee. He then made reference to the hospital. "The little ones in there need us," he said. The 523 striking union workers currently demand a 15 percent wage increase over three years, a 7.2 percent increase in contributions to the union's health and welfare fund and a half-percent increase for a union training fund. Negotiations broke off before the strike and relations between the two parties are strained, but both sides were expected to return to the bargaining table soon. Over 300 members of District Council 1199C at Osteopathic Medical Center also went on strike Wednesday morning when their contracts expired. Nine other hospitals and 15 nursing homes in the Philadelphia area successfully reached agreements with workers before contracts expired.Comments powered by Disqus
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