Protesters: MUSC grievance policy changes signal progress

Pastor Thomas Dixon referenced his “Reinstate Chris Nelson” shirt while applauding changes to MUSC employee grievance policies that were approved on Friday by the MUSC board.

While wearing a “Reinstate Chris Nelson” T-shirt, Pastor Thomas Dixon declared that progress was made Friday after two years of protesting to change employee grievance policies at the Medical University of South Carolina.

The MUSC Board of Trustees on Friday approved several changes to the policies, including expanding the employee committee from three to five people. Changes also include allowing employees to, at their own cost, have legal representation when dealing with grievances and having an opportunity to appeal to the MUSC president.

In addition, employees can nominate themselves or others to be considered as members of the grievance committee. Members of the committee will also have training.

“Panel members overseeing a grievance need to know the policy and the process so they can do an adequate job,” said Anton Gunn, the MUSC chief of diversity.

The policy changes will now be submitted to the state of South Carolina for approval.

Dixon and Leonard Riley are part of Healthcare Workers United, a labor-rights group. The two routinely lead more than a dozen protesters into MUSC board meetings at Colcock Hall and have been attending meetings since 2014.

In December, a frustrated Dixon interrupted the board meeting stating that they had been “silent for about 20 months” and demanded that changes be made.

Though he considers Friday’s decision a win, Dixon said the changes only represent Phase 1. Pointing to his shirt, he said the reinstatement of Nelson and others the protesters believe were wrongfully terminated is another necessary step towards equality. Nelson is a former nurse who was fired more than a year ago after working with MUSC for 19 years.

In addition, all employees should start out making a minimum of $15 per hour, Dixon said. And once that is implemented, he added, tenured employees’ salaries should be adjusted so that they’ll be compensated for their time invested in the hospital.

“This year, we’ve begun to have a dialogue and we’ve been able to make some progress,” Dixon said. “We’re all here for the betterment of our community, and we think that aspect is now working from an administrative level at MUSC.”

Friday’s meeting also included the approval of a $2.8 million land purchase near the intersection of Bees Ferry Road and Glenn McConnell Parkway in West Ashley. The facility is expected to cost $40 million.

Reach Derrek Asberry at 843-937-5517. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.