Sutter Health Employees Approve One-Day Strike
More than 7,000 registered nurses and other hospital personnel are set to stage a one-day strike Dec. 1 at 14 hospitals in Northern California owned by, or affiliated with, Sutter Health over staffing and patient safety concerns, union officials announced Friday, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Feder Ostrov, San Jose Mercury News, 11/20).
The Sutter employees on strike -- represented by SEIU Locals 250 and 707 -- include vocational nurses, nurse assistants, lab assistants, dietary workers, housekeepers and supply workers (California Healthline, 11/12). The California Nurses Association, which represents the 2,700 striking registered nurses, said they will strike at four of the 14 hospitals. The other unions will strike at 13 of the facilities (San Jose Mercury News, 11/20).
The affected hospitals include Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland and Berkeley, California Pacific Medical Center and St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco, San Leandro Hospital and Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/20).
The unions have sought to negotiate all the Sutter contracts in a single session, but the hospitals have pressed to keep each negotiation separate (Kleffman, Contra Costa Times, 11/20).
Sal Rosselli, president of SEIU Local 250, said, "Hospital workers never want to strike. This is a drastic move because there's a staffing crisis in Sutter hospitals every day" (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/20).
John Boros, vice president of SEIU Local 250, said, "Unlike other major employers in California who have provided a process for caregivers to have a meaningful voice in how patient care is delivered -- like Kaiser [Permanente], Catholic Healthcare West and the Daughters of Charity -- Sutter Health has not only refused to negotiate in good faith but has unleashed an unlawful corporate campaign to intimidate workers and threaten employees."
CNA President Deborah Burger said the Sutter hospitals "continually ignore" the nurse-staffing mandate, adding, "They are trying to circumvent that law. We're here to tell the public and [Alta Bates Summit] that they will not get away with this. ... They will cause patient deaths if they do not follow this law" (Contra Costa Times, 11/20).
Christine McMurry, a spokesperson for California Pacific Medical Center, characterized the strike as an attempt to force the hospitals into a "one-size-fits-all" contract with its employees (San Jose Mercury News, 11/20).
Carolyn Kemp, a spokesperson for Alta Bates Summit, said the "beauty" of negotiating separate contracts "is that we are locally controlled. Why would we change that?" (Contra Costa Times, 11/20). She added that some union members had expressed disappointment about the strike. "This is health care, not a supermarket. We are encouraging everyone to come to work" on the day of the strike, Kemp said.
Noting that CNA's claims cannot be independently verified, Kemp said that the union's criticisms were "absurd" and that the hospitals "meet or exceed" the state-mandated nurse-to-patient ratios (San Jose Mercury News, 11/20).