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Labor Unions Organize Rally to Keep Saint Michael's Medical Center Open

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Newark, NJ—More than 200 employees, physicians, patients, community members and local officials joined labor unions—JNESO, District 1199J and IUOE Local 68—for a rally to keep Saint Michael’s Medical Center (SMMC) open as a full-service, acute-care hospital.

The May 27 event took place outside of the medical center and kicked off with a march along Central Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., where Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins—one of the hospital’s most vocal advocates—gathered demonstrators at a rallying point.

Douglas A. Placa, executive director for JNESO District Council 1, spoke about the importance of working together to keep the hospital open and next steps forward. “On behalf of JNESO, representing nurses and technicians at Saint Michael's, we are so happy to have partners in 1199J and Local 68 in this fight,” said Placa. “We're so happy to see the state AFL-CIO get involved, and so many of you. We have the support at the local level, the county level, and the federal level. Now it is time to make those voices heard on the state level.”

In addition tothe thousands of petitions it has received urging to keep the medical center open, Saint Michael’s has also received an outpouring of support from local clergy leaders, community leaders and resolutions from the Newark City Council, Belleville Municipal Council and the Essex County Board of Freeholders, to name a few.

When I heard that Saint Michael’s could possibly be shut down, I was outraged—outraged as a citizen, outraged as a person who uses the facility, outraged as someone who knows firsthand that this is top-notch medical care that our community needs,” said Britnee N. Timberlake, Essex County Freeholder President. “Furthermore, I'm outraged because [the hospital] is home to 1,400 employees. I stand flat-footed and say that we must save and we must keep Saint Michael's."

Saint Michael’s Medical Center recently released a response to a report by Navigant Consulting, which recommended the consolidation and closing of healthcare facilities in Newark. If implemented, the Navigant recommendations would create a monopoly in inpatient hospital services in the Newark area, potentially causing price increases to those seeking services and cutting more than 1,000 jobs.

Charles Hall, Jr., President of RWDSU Local 108, an International Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers, and the Chair of Working Families United for New Jersey, Inc., spoke out in favor of keeping the medical center open due to choice and access to care. “I'm a Newark resident. I live not even two miles from here, and I shouldn't have to drive from there to all the way across town or to another city to get medical care. People should have the opportunity to travel to a hospital where they're going to get good care from people they know,” he said. “You have the support of the whole labor movement. We're going to march with you. We're going to do whatever it takes. Many of you have stood with me to talk about what’s right. And what’s right today is that Saint Michael's stays open. We’re going to fight to the end.”

Saint Michael’s and Prime Healthcare signed an Asset Purchase Agreement in February 2013 and the medical center continues to fight for its future. “The Prime acquisition will allow Saint Michael’s to continue serving the people of the greater Newark area, and will preserve more than 1,400 jobs,” said David A. Ricci, president and CEO, SMMC. “After more than two years, it is time for the state to approve the acquisition, and let us move forward to improve healthcare in Newark.”

The purchase of Saint Michael’s by Prime will ensure the medical center continues its mission as an acute-care facility to provide high-quality health care to the people of Newark and the surrounding communities, and provide a tremendous opportunity for Newark to continue its revitalization efforts, as the medical center brings employment opportunities and generates more than $5 million annually in revenue to local businesses.

“As we were walking from our [District 1199J] headquarters across from Penn Station, we couldn't believe all the construction coming,” said Sue Cleary, District 1199J President. “We kept saying to ourselves, how can you close a hospital right in the middle of all this? It makes no sense. I'm tired of seeing hospitals in our cities close down. But I'm not tired of fighting back.”

To sign the petition to save Saint Michael’s Medical Center, visit or call 1-844-KEEP-SMMC.