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Area nurses’ union legacy

Association showcased at center exhibit

Staff photo / Bob Coupland Jeannie Mulichak, left, and Laurie Hornberger examine the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association exhibit, which showcases the group’s history. The display was unveiled Thursday at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor in Youngstown. Hornberger served as the organization’s last president, while Mulichak was its last vice president.

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association’s history is featured in a new exhibit unveiled Thursday at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor.

More than 75 people gathered for its official opening and a program.

Displayed in the main entrance, panels highlight the association’s existence, including nurses’ strikes.

The exhibit, “A Legacy of Dignity, Strength and Caring, 1966-2018,” chronicles Ohio’s first nurses union — the second in the country — from its inception over a wage dispute in 1966 to the hospital’s closing three years ago.

The union served as a voice for the registered nurses at the Youngstown Hospital Association, which eventually extended to Northside, Southside and Tod Babies and Children’s Hospital and Beeghly Medical Park.

Laurie Hornberger, the association’s last president, said, “We have been a union for over 52 years, and it is so important to have our history here and archived.”

Hornberger said nurses in this union forged friendships and created a community that enabled them to bolster each other as they faced stress daily.

The association dissolved after the closure of Northside Hospital. Its nurses donated $50,000 in union dues to the historical center to archive the group’s labor history.

Hornberger said the union wanted its treasury to stay in the Youngstown community as a way to provide funds to the YSU Foundation for scholarships and to sponsor future nurses.

“For decades the newspapers, TV stations and radio stations have covered the YGDNA stories while the nurses fought for better patient outcomes and fought for better working conditions,” Hornberger said. “Nurses were able to speak out with a protected voice for their patients without the fear of losing their jobs due to the nurses’ union.”

Jeannie Mulichak, the association’s last vice president, said, “This is nurses representing nurses. It has always been about the community we serve.”

Nancy Wagner, director and professor of the YSU James and Coralie Centofanti School of Nursing, spoke of the nurses and their commitment to community care.

“The nurses’ association’s passion is shown in the exhibit,” she said.

Kimberly Valone, professor of nursing, said the YSU associate degree nursing program began in 1967 and the bachelor’s degree in nursing program in 1983 with thousands of nurses graduating.

Brooke Bobovnyik, the center’s graduate intern assistant, created a digital exhibit of the association’s history.

“The materials showcase the events that not only impacted nurses in Youngstown and Ohio, but the United States. After reviewing the material, I have a greater appreciation for nurses and the members of the YGDNA,” she said.

The museum is supported by the Ohio History Connection and managed by YSU’s history program.

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