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Baltimore Symphony Musicians Support Nurses’ Organizing Campaign

On Saturday, July 20, Baltimore Symphony Musician brass players, along with guest musicians, played “Which Side Are You On?” and “Solidarity Forever” at a labor rally in front of the Dome at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Sponsored by the AFL-CIO, National Nurses United, and the Coalition for a Humane Hopkins, the event featured both national and local labor and political leaders who spoke in support of the organizing campaign for Hopkins nurses to gain union recognition and collective bargaining power.

BSO Musicians John Vance (left) and Gabrielle Finck (with son Maximilian) at the July 20 labor rally supporting Johns Hopkins University nurses as they work to gain union recognition and collective bargaining power. Photo: Mary Plaine

Hopkins nurses have been fighting the hospital’s anti-union campaign for months. The nurses are organizing for respect, a voice at the table, and the ability to advocate for better patient care without fear of retribution. In addition, their campaign has focused on the egregious medical debt collection practices that Johns Hopkins Hospital continues despite widespread criticism.

In June, the hospital reached a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board to agree to stop violating federal labor law with such practices as unlawful surveillance and interrogation of RNs and barring off-duty RNs access to non-patient care areas to talk to their colleagues about the union. However, nurses report continued violations of their rights and an aggressive union-busting campaign designed to silence their voices.

Hopkins nurses and members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) first approached the Baltimore Symphony Musicians at the musicians’ solidarity concert in January at Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption. Since then, Baltimore Symphony Musicians performed at Baltimore’s Union Baptist Church for an NNOC event, helping raise over $10,000 for a pregnant nurse who had been unjustly fired. The nurses and NNOC members regularly walk with Baltimore Symphony Musicians on their picket line around the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

“What was so amazing to witness at today’s rally was the bond our musicians have made with members of many other labor organizations in our community,” says Local 40-543 Secretary-Treasurer Mary Plaine. “It was heartening to recognize our new friends among the crowd. We are grateful for their support, and we will do what we can to help them with their struggles. That’s what this is all about, taking care of each other.”

Speakers at the July event included AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Secretary-Treasurer Liz Schuler, National Nurses United Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees J. David Cox, Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO President Donna Edwards, Metropolitan Baltimore Council President Jermaine Jones, Johns Hopkins Hospital nurses and patients, and members of the U.S. Congress, the Maryland General Assembly, and Baltimore City Council.