LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Judge Bars Health Care Workers From Striking
As thousands of Los Angeles County workers prepared to walk off the job today, a Superior Court judge granted the county's request for a temporary restraining order preventing hospital employees from striking, the Los Angeles Times reports. Judge Dzintra Janavs' order applies to registered nurses, lab technicians and "other related health workers," but does not cover pharmacists, licensed vocational nurses or "recently unionized doctors." In the wake of several Services Employees International Union Local 660 rolling strikes, which have shut down various emergency rooms in recent days, the county argued that a health care worker strike would "imperil" the public health system. In a declaration filed with the judge, Los Angeles County Director of Emergency Medical Services Virginia Hastings wrote, "Any disruption of emergency services provided by the county hospitals or the temporary removal of these resources ... will have a profound adverse impact upon the provision of emergency services, particularly in the inner-city areas of the city of Los Angeles." Union lawyers contended that their "medical workers had a legal right to strike under recent state law." Local 660 spokesperson Mark Tarnowsky said that the union would respect the judge's decision but would consider an appeal. Janavs scheduled an Oct. 31 hearing "for further argument."
Of Strikes And Walkouts
The judge's ruling came as the county Board of Supervisors yesterday took part in "eleventh-hour negotiations" with the union. However, talks broke off at 10:30 p.m. and are set to resume at noon today. The county is "determin[ed] not to budge" from its offer of a 9% salary increase over three years, while the union is seeking a 15.5% raise over the same period. Yesterday marked the sixth day of the union's "rolling walkouts," which have "paralyzed critical components of the public health system." More than half of the staff members at four hospitals -- County-USC Medical Center, Rancho Los Amigos, Olive View and High Desert -- and area clinics walked off their posts Tuesday, forcing elective surgeries to be postponed and clinics to close. As residents heard of the potential strike, the number of patient visits dwindled; County-USC had 425 inpatients Tuesday compared to its daily average of 720, and its emergency room was "virtually empty." Officials worried that the strike would jeopardize patient care. Los Angeles County Department of Health spokesperson John Wallace said, "There's a general backup that is occurring by not scheduling elective procedures. There are dialysis patients not being serviced. There are chemotherapy patients being postponed." County Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen said, "The county is looking at all kinds of contingencies, but nothing is determined yet." He added that if residents try to use the county's services, "there may not be anyone there to help them" (Riccardi/Mathews, Los Angeles Times, 10/11).