Hospitals Lock Out Employees Who Participated in Strike
As expected, managers of nine Northern California Sutter Health hospitals on Thursday told union employees who participated in a one-day strike Wednesday that they would not be allowed to return to work until Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/3).
Employees went on strike 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 who went 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, 12/2).
Hospital officials had said in advance that strikers could not return to work for five days because replacement workers, hired to keep the hospital open during the strike had contracts lasting until Monday. The officials also said they wanted to deter future union strikes.
Mike Colburn, a rehabilitation aide, asked, "Why are they locking us out?" adding, "Because we're striking. It's a penalty. That doesn't seem right."
Several employees who participated in the strike but who were not scheduled to work Wednesday said they also were barred from working until Monday. "My manager looked me in the eye and said, 'You are not allowed to work today because you did not report to work yesterday on your day off,'" Felicity Blau, a registered nurse at Alta Bates Summit, said.
Carolyn Kemp, spokesperson for Alta Bates, said, "This is an extraordinary situation," adding, "They chose to abandon the patients, and we have to do everything we can to take care of the patients" (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/3).
SEIU officials said a majority of members participated in the strike, but hospital officials said that between 54% and 60% of employees crossed the picket line and reported to work (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 12/3).
Sutter Lakeside Hospital CEO Kelly Mather said, "The majority of our staff did cross the picket. We don't feel there's any disruption in the care" (Rose/Anderson, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 12/2).
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Thursday convened a special meeting to discuss how the city could intervene in the labor dispute. At the meeting, requested by Supervisor Chris Daly, the board voted to put a resolution on its Dec. 14 agenda urging Sutter Health to "join other Northern California hospital systems to adopt new policies to better meet patient and caregiver needs."
In addition, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday sent a letter to members of Sutter Health's board of directors urging resolution and criticizing the lockout (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/3).