The One Story: HBCUs And The Gatekeeping Of Black Culture
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Howard University Investigative Piece

Howard University Hospital is pictured in 2016 in Washington, D.C. | Source: The Washington Post / Getty

Tensions ran high at Howard University Hospital as approximately 300 nurses and medical personnel held a strike on Monday in the latest protest demanding more from the prominent HBCU in Washington, D.C.

According to reporting from 7News, personnel at the well-known hospital were protesting low wages and staff shortages.

Hospital staff has reportedly been without a contract since November, and there have been almost 100 staff vacancies since the beginning of this year.

“We’ve been thinking and preparing for this for a long time,” Howard University Hospital CEO Anita Jenkins told 7News.” We do have agency nurse personnel. Our managers, our directors who are nurses and have the ability to staff, they absolutely will be at that bedside. And I will be right there with them in scrubs doing whatever I can to make sure that what is most important happens and that’s taking care of that community that we serve.”

Jenkins also told 7News that even after numerous bargaining sessions stalled the hospital still gave their employees a 9.6% raise on average in their paychecks last week.

“Let me be clear, our hospital will be fully staffed and taking care of our patients,” said Jenkins. ”There will be no decrease in care and quality care while our nurses display the right to strike if they want. But do I want them to come back and say yes let’s keep talking or let’s consider this differently or let’s take this to a vote,”

This protest came weeks after University faculty threatened to strike after claiming they were mistreated by the institution and months after students protested for more than 30 days about living conditions and other issues at the Northwest D.C. campus.

Howard University spokesman Tony Blue released a statement saying the school stands by the fact that 98% of the District of Columbia Nurses Association (DCNA) labor union staff members are getting pay increases, nearly half of them are receiving $10,000 or more and only five of the hospital’s employees will get a slight pay cut.

The statement added that the five members who did not receive an increase were already making above the market rate.

“On Thursday, April 7, Howard University Hospital DCNA members received a significant wage increase, that averages in excess 9.8%,” Blue stated. “The amounts consider the recently implemented annual wage increase together with any estimated effect that the new flat-rate shift differential might have on each staff member’s annual compensation. Shift differential is defined in the labor agreement as an hourly premium for staff members working evening, night, and weekend shifts.”

In a statement sent to NewsOne, Blue added that “Howard University Hospital is safely and appropriately staffed.” He said the hospital proposal “includes a contractual commitment to activate a Joint Nurse Staffing Committee made up of both Hospital senior management and DCNA representatives” that will work together retain talent and address staffing.

As one of the most prominent HBCUs in the country, Howard’s string of controversies has certainly raised some questions about what the next steps should be at the institution.


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