LOS ANGELES COUNTY: ‘Rolling Strike’ to Target Public Hospitals
Los Angeles County hospitals might be targeted by strikers tomorrow as the Service Employees International Union 660, which includes about 47,000 government workers, continues a "rolling walkout" over pay issues, the Los Angeles Times reports. SEIU 660 had requested a 15.5% pay raise over three years to compensate for previous cuts, but county officials said that would cost $97 million and require them to dip into reserves at a time when the budget is unstable. The county instead offered a 9% raise, but talks between the two sides broke off last Friday, with no further negotiations scheduled. Hundreds of Los Angeles county workers walked off their jobs Monday at registrar-recorder and animal control offices. The strikers plan to hit welfare offices and children's services today and public hospitals and clinics tomorrow -- leading up to a "countywide walkout" next Wednesday (Los Angeles Times, 10/3). The union plans to strike at King/Drew Medical Center tomorrow, although union leaders said that emergency workers will remain on the job. County officials have charged that the strike is illegal because "county unions must go through a mediation and fact-finding process before walking off the job." The county is seeking a restraining order to prevent health care workers from shutting down county hospitals, and the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs has ordered union members to stay on the job (Riccardi/Fausset, Los Angeles Times, 10/4).
Demonstrations in Ventura County
In another action affecting California hospitals, Ventura County registered nurses at St. John's two hospitals are poised to demonstrate tonight to call attention to the "management's failure to respond" to a nursing shortage, the Ventura County Star reports. St. John administrators said they are addressing the shortage with a "contingency plan" involving a pool of on-call nurses and outside agencies, and hospital officials said the union nurses "are blowing issues out of proportion to get pay raises." However, union nurses participating in the demonstration said there is a "major" nursing shortage at St. John's two hospitals, Oxford and Camarillo, that is compromising patient care. Chris Slane, a registered nurse in the emergency department, said, "We're hoping to bring the issue out in a larger way to the community and we're hoping that will force the hospital to come back and bargain with us." Nurses will not be demonstrating during work hours, but during down time. Steve Nutter, SEIU research and bargaining director, said, "This is something that is short of a strike. The nurses will be demonstrating their unhappiness as far as the hospital's failure in negotiations. The nurses here want to resolve this now" (Hughes, Ventura County Star, 10/4).