Hospital Workers, Nurses Strike at Sutter Hospitals
Hospital workers at nine Sutter hospitals held a one-day strike Wednesday to protest contract disputes, and some registered nurses joined in a sympathy strike, the Contra Costa Times reports (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 12/2).
Employees are striking to protest what they say are unfair labor practices by Sutter, including staffing issues, career advancement and training programs. The hospitals involved include St. Luke's Hospital and California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkley and Oakland, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo, Sutter Lakeside Hospital in Lakeport, Sutter Warrack Hospital in Santa Rosa and Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa.
The Sutter employees on strike -- represented by Service Employees International Union Locals 250 and 707 -- include vocational nurses, nurse assistants, lab assistants, dietary workers, housekeepers and supply workers. The nurses participating in the sympathy strike are represented by the California Nurses Association (California Healthline, 12/1).
Hospital officials said striking employees would be locked out until Monday, but the hospitals will remain open. The hospitals have hired temporary workers to fill in for those on strike.
SEIU officials said the strike is about inadequate patient care standards and unfair labor practices, while striking workers gave additional reasons for supporting the strike. Some workers said they want a master contract with Sutter.
John Borsos, vice president of SEIU 250, said Sutter should negotiate contracts as a unit. "They assert that the hospitals are independent and autonomous, but they sure seem to be acting like a corporations," Borsos said.
Employees also say having a single contract would give them more negotiating strength for improved retirement benefits and mean that workers would not lose seniority if they moved to a different hospital within the Sutter network.
SEIU members also traveled to Sacramento to join registered nurses in protesting the delay of new nurse-to-patient ratio staffing requirements at hospitals. The administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last month delayed the implementation of new requirements from Jan. 1, 2005, to 2008.
SEIU officials said that most of its members did not cross the picket line. Alta Bates Summit said 54% of SEIU members and 60% of registered nurses came to work Wednesday. Eden Medical Center said 120 of its 317 SEIU members were at work, although not all 317 members were scheduled to work (Contra Costa Times, 12/2).