NURSES: Union Wins at San Diego Children’s; Strikes Elsewhere
A look at labor disputes between hospitals and nurses around the state this week:
- Nurses at Children's Hospital in San Diego voted 341 to 140 in favor of representation by United Nurses of Children's Hospital. The unaffiliated union will represent roughly 600 RNs at the hospital. Nurses said the union drive was successful because of "working conditions that make it increasingly difficult to provide quality care," including staffing shortages, high turnover and inadequate wages. Although hospital administrators had lobbied against the union, they will not contest the outcome of the vote and intend to begin negotiating with the union (Rose, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/22).
- Nurses at Hemet Valley Medical Center have scheduled a strike for Sept. 30 in order to protest the elimination of many benefits by the hospital's parent system. Faced with expected losses due to Medicare funding cutbacks, Valley Health System board members voted in May to reduce annual sick days, change retirement pay and eliminate annual longevity pay bonuses for long-time employees -- cuts that nurses say have "lowered already-dwindling morale and stripped medical care quality to a bare minimum." After several months of negotiation failed to yield a settlement, 88% of the nurses voted in favor of the one-day walkout (Ramirez, Hemet News, 9/21).
- Less than a month after holding a one-day walkout that turned into a four-day lockout, nurses at Sierra Vista Hospital in San Luis Obispo plan to strike again Oct. 1, saying that negotiators from the hospital and its owner, Tenet Healthcare, failed to respond adequately to the first strike. Hospital officials said that nurses again will be locked out for four days if they proceed with the strike, as a contract signed with Colorado-based U.S. Nursing for replacement nurses carries a minimum four-day span. Tenet and the nurses have been negotiating since last October, but union representatives say talks reached a stalemate in August because of nurses' concerns over lack of staffing, patient advocacy and compensation issues. Hospital administrators blame the impasse instead on "the union's desire to make Sierra Vista Hospital a closed shop, meaning only nurses who pay union dues could work there" (Lazier, San Luis Obisbo Telegram-Tribune, 9/22).