Ca. Nurses Assoc. announces strike

March 10, 2008 6:49:17 PM PDT
Registered nurses around the Bay Area are scheduled to hold a 10-day strike beginning March 21, the California Nurses Association announced today.

The strike is expected to include 4,000 registered nurses from eight Sutter Health facilities, according to the CNA. Two facilities operated by the Fremont-Rideout Health Group in Marysville and Yuba City will hold a one-day strike and nurses from Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez will strike for three days.

The strike will mark the third and longest walkout since October.

Affected Sutter hospitals will include St. Luke's Hospital and California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, San Leandro Hospital, Alta Bates-Summit Medical Center in Berkeley and Oakland, Mills-Peninsula Health Services in Burlingame and San Mateo, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, Sutter Delta in Antioch and Sutter Solano in Vallejo.

The nurses are striking to protest what they consider serious patient care issues including safe staffing at all times even during rest and meal breaks, medical benefits and pension improvements. The CNA is also protesting Sutter's alleged attempt to close three community hospitals in the Bay Area that serve a patient population that is poorer and composed of more people of color than other Sutter hospitals.

"Sutter cannot expect RNs to sit idly by and watch the ongoing problems with patient care and patient safety at our hospitals," Sharon Tobin, a registered nurse at Mills-Peninsula Hospital, said in a prepared statement. "When there are not enough nurses, patients are put at risk, period. We don't want to strike but our ethical obligation as patient advocates demands it."

Bill Gleeson, a spokesman for Sutter Health, said that the union is misrepresenting the "real reason" for the strike. He said that nurses are well paid, receive free healthcare and a generous retirement plan.

"The real reason for the strike is related to the union's quest for more members and more dues money," said Gleeson.

Officials with San Francisco's California Pacific Medical Center, which employs approximately 2,000 nurses, have announced disappointment with the strike, claiming that the CNA is putting its own business agenda ahead of the needs of its members.

California Pacific Medical Center spokesman Kevin McCormack said there has not been movement in bargaining sessions and that "the big issue is still going to be organizing rights." He said that the CNA is asking for the ability to pitch the union without allowing the hospital a chance to explain why nurses might not want to join. More than half of the medical center's nurses have chosen to not join the union, according to the medical center.

McCormack said that the hospital will use many of the same nurses who filled in during the first two strikes, which will make operating during the strike easier than before.

"Patients won't experience disruption in service or quality," said McCormack.

Preston said the CNA is striking so that concerns of nurses will be taken seriously.