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Washington Hospital Center (AP)

Labor Strife Can Pay Off Big For Some Nurses

Mar 4, 2011

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Are you a nurse who wants to visit new places, make a lot of money, and not be tied to the same old job?

Well, then maybe strike-breaking is the career for you. That's not exactly how companies that provide replacement nurses during labor actions put it. But it's not all that far off either.

With the news this week of the one-day nurse walkout at Washington Hospital Center, the largest hospital in the nation's capital, we wondered where all the replacement nurses actually come from.

It turns out there's an entire industry devoted to helping hospitals (and other employers) keep their "business secured" during labor strife, as the Michigan-based staffing company Huffmaster puts it.

Why bring in replacement workers? Huffmaster answers:

It strengthens your bargaining position and allows you to negotiate in the best interest of your facility and community without making contract concessions due to a lack of personnel.

Other firms are equally candid about their raisons d'etre. In 2005, Modern Staffing & Security "serviced the Nation's largest Health Care strike in 20 years!" it brags on its website. And lest hospitals worry about potential trouble with bringing in strike-breakers, just don't, says MSS: "Hospital Strike Security is our specialty."

But what these firms really need to make things work are the actual nurses. And each company has its own pitches, such as luxury hotel accommodations, top-notch pay and safe transportation to and from the job.

HealthSource Global Staffing's "strike information" Web page offers nurses the opportunity to join the company's crisis team and "gain the satisfaction of assisting patients, hospitals, and communities in their time of need by working short-term assignments during healthcare facility labor disputes."

Meanwhile, U.S. Nursing Corporation (which is staffing the Washington Hospital Center stoppage at an advertised $3,500 per week per nurse for 60 hours of work), includes a testimonial on its website from an unnamed nurse. She claims that working for the company change her life by allowing her to "to buy a new home, pay cash for my car" and paying for her daughter's education without having to take out any loans.

And in case strike-breaking makes you uncomfortable — clearly not everyone feels this way — there are other opportunities to make a little extra here and there. All the companies pay cash to refer a friend or colleague (amounts vary). And U.S. Nursing pays a $500 bonus to nurses who work as travel nurses (filling in for those on vacation or in facilities that need additional help) "between job actions."

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