Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Best and worst of this week’s headlines

The summer is in full swing in D.C., with predictions to reach record-high temperatures by the second half of June. You may not miss the heat, but you may miss the District. To stay informed over summer break without encountering D.C.’s heat wave, Opinions Editor Andi Mendoza-Melchor and I will be covering the latest happenings in the District.

A union among GW hospital nurses was finally certified, affirming the union among employees amid strong opposing efforts from health care company Universal Health Services. For nurses struggling under poor working conditions, this is a hard-fought win.

D.C. officials again pushed back the opening date of The Aston, a non-congregate homeless shelter and former GW residence hall. Not only is this disappointing news after two prior delays and a lack of communication to community members, it’s a dangerous loss for the unhoused people in the District, many of whom have been displaced in recent encampment clearings near campus.

Here’s the best and worst of this week’s headlines:

Thumbs Up

Late last month, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled to certify the union representing GW Hospital nurses. This ruling follows almost a year of negotiation disputes with GW Hospital’s owner and operator Universal Health Services, including three outstanding unfair labor practice charges against the hospital filed by the union.

Amid growing nationwide concern over burnout among hospital employees after the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that medical staff need more support. But when nurses voiced their concerns about inadequate staffing and poor working conditions to officials over the last few years, they responded with “very little” interaction, according to a union leader. Under those conditions, it came as no surprise that nurses voted last February for more bargaining power through union representation.

But since the union campaign, UHS — what a union leader called a well-known anti-union employer — has thwarted the effort at every turn, firing an employee for their alleged union involvement and engaging in tactics that may scare people from seeking union representation. Finally, GW hospital nurses now have the legal right to negotiate with the company with hopes of balancing the power between workers and UHS in future agreements. UHS is expected to appeal, but for now, this news deserves applause.

Thumbs Down:

Officials have unofficially delayed the opening of The Aston, a homeless shelter slated to open in a former residence hall in Foggy Bottom, until October. Initially set to open for November 2023, then pushed to spring or summer 2024, this announcement marks D.C. officials’ third setback to debut the shelter. The Aston would house about 100 people, and each delay keeps 100 unhoused people on the streets.

When plans for non-congregate shelter were first announced, it seemed like D.C. was taking a step in the right direction to help serve the city’s unhoused community in new ways. The shelter was the first of its kind in Ward 2, which encompasses Foggy Bottom and the first non-congregate shelter in D.C. — private housing for mixed-gendered adult families and medically vulnerable people. But as the rate of homelessness increases, almost 12 percent from 2022 to 2023, and a total of 4,922 people without permanent housing, unhoused individuals are continuing to receive evictions instead of aid.

Officials involved in The Aston’s development have explained the extensive preparations that must come before the shelter’s opening. And as the first shelter of its kind in the District, the community must have some tolerance to the turbulence. But if D.C. expects the community to understand these obstacles, announcements to push back or change plans for The Aston must be more direct and comprehensive — not delivered at the end of public meetings without notice to our neighborhood’s leaders.

There can be no further delays if D.C. is committed to helping their community. The Aston’s debut cannot be a moving target when 9,774 people in the District remain without shelter.

Madie Turley, a rising sophomore, is the contributing opinions editor.

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