Alameda nurses on strike hold candlelight vigil in honor of peers who died of COVID-19

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- Names of registered nurses around the country who lost their lives to COVID-19 were read aloud during a candlelight vigil Saturday outside of Alameda Hospital.

Reverend Jeanelle Ablola, whose mother was a nurse years ago, spoke of the sacrifices and the hard decisions nurses make everyday.

"There are too many names and too many lives lost. Each one of them a life lost, each one of them had somebody that loved them and cared for them," Ablola said. "I don't think that they should be making choices whether they should be able to live and work safely."

Before the vigil, registered nurses from Alameda Hospital continued a five-day long strike following failed labor negotiations with Alameda Health System.

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Sunday will be the fifth day.

Registered nurse, Linda Strack, has worked for Alameda Hospital for nearly seven years. She said "bad bargaining" has led to the decision to strike during this time.

"There's no question we did not do this lightly," she said. "And it has to be considered as you said the reason we're out here is because things like they wanted to eliminate our safety review, our professional practice committee, where we go over the monthly problems that we have in the hospital. And we had a meeting with management and tried to resolve these things across a conference table. They want to eliminate that committee."

She said when the pandemic hit, it made everything worse.

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"They're lack of trust with the nurses, locking up PPE. We filed numerous Cal/OSHA complaints, and it just didn't bring them to the table, it didn't make them understand how serious we are. We're not going to skimp on what our patients need and what we need to be safe," Strack said.

She also said, the vigil is to honor their brothers and sisters because they gave the ultimate sacrifice.

"Nationally it is in the hundreds, through lack of PPE, through softening of CDC guidelines and hospitals then almost hiding behind that, 'well, these our guidelines, they're not imperative,'" Strack said.

Nurses said they do not take the decision to strike during a pandemic lightly, but it is for the protection of their patients and themselves.

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Ablola said 70 percent of registered nurses who have lost their lives to COVID-19 in California are Filipino.

"It's hitting our community in a very particular way," Ablola said. "And it's not just hitting individuals, it's not just impacting these nurses, it's impacting their families who have become lost because of this pandemic."

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