CNA Petitions for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Nurses To Join Union
The California Nurses Association yesterday filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize nurses at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles Times reports. If the board certifies the petition, the facility's 1,800 nurses could vote on unionization in 30 days. If the nurses approve joining the union, it would be the "largest organizing victory" for CNA in years, the Times reports. Eva Buenconsejo, a nurse in the hospital's intensive care unit, said her coworkers hope to use the collective bargaining power of unionization to negotiate with the hospital on issues of mandatory overtime, nurse-to-patient ratios, improved retirement benefits and seniority-based raises. Cedars-Sinai Vice President Grace Cheng said, "While we respect the employees' legal right to join a union if they so choose, our preference is to continue to deal directly with our employees," adding that the hospital will "be working to ensure that our staff has the facts they need to make an informed choice" (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 9/4).
The Contra Costa Times reports that the California Nurses Association has become a "powerful force" in negotiations with hospitals and lawmakers as a result of a statewide nursing shortage, the "willingness of nurses to engage to organize and fight" hospital officials and the union's "savviness" in public education campaigns. Over the past two years, CNA has negotiated the "best wages and benefits for its members in history," the Times reports. Several recent contracts, for example, included salary increases of about 20% over three years and bans on mandatory overtime. In addition, the Legislature in 1999 passed a bill to establish mandatory minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, which CNA and other unions had sought for about 10 years. The membership of CNA has doubled over the past decade, and the nursing shortage has made hospitals "less likely to let negotiations break down." In addition, CNA has used "aggressive tactics" in negotiations with hospitals, such as "alerting the press on the substance and progress" of the negotiations and "holding out on the prospect of a strike if necessary." According to some critics, however, the union's "tendency toward inflammatory rhetoric and its belligerent attitude toward hospital management are not helpful for a financially stressed industry." In addition, some hospital officials said that the improved contracts negotiated by CNA resulted from "market forces, rather than the union's power" (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 9/2). Jan Emerson, a spokesperson for the California Healthcare Association, said, "I think that regardless of CNA's tactics, in the market environment of supply and demand, nursing salaries and benefits would absolutely be going up with or without the CNA" (AP/Modesto Bee, 9/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.