NURSING STRIKES: Bakersfield Goes for Two, Hemet Hems and Haws
Nurses at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital have voted a one-day strike for the second time in less than a month, the Bakersfield Californian reports. Despite warnings from hospital administrators that they will hire replacement nurses as they did during the last strike, nurses voted Tuesday to give union bargainers the "go-ahead." The major point of contention between the two sides is the California Nurses Association's desire to require all nurses to join the union, while the hospital prefers an "open shop" that would allow nurses to make their own decisions. Don Nielsen, the CNA's chief negotiator, said that the CNA will offer a counterproposal to the hospital board during Friday's negotiations and that nurses will not strike if an agreeable contract is produced. He predicted that the counterproposal is "not going to be the same thing warmed over and rehashed." Catholic Healthcare West Central California spokesperson Della Hodson stated that "the hospital was satisfied with its current offer on the table" but added, "[W]e're prepared to continue to negotiate" (Fargen, 8/10).
Nurses at Hemet Valley Medical Center have been working without a contract for nine months, and many are poised to leave if a contract is not signed soon, the Hemet News reports. With negotiations scheduled to start Friday, CNA labor representative Corky Anderson said she "hope[d] a contract with better incentives and benefits could sway some longtime nurses away from seeking jobs elsewhere." Nurses have picketed the hospital twice since May, when hospital administrators announced budget cuts that included freezing retirement contributions and laying off 18 hospital employees. Hospital administrators assert that the cuts are necessary due to reductions in Medicare reimbursement, and will ultimately save the hospital an annual $3.3 million. Nurses argue that "it's no longer worth it for some employees to stay with the district," adding that the cuts "will jeopardize patient care." Speaking to the hospital board, Hemet Valley nurse Janet Donnelly said that on Monday, only two nurses were on duty in the emergency room when one of three critical patients died. She urged "Don't lose your veteran nurses. We're talking about human life. You have a serious staffing problem here" (Ramirez, 8/11).