Union Members Authorize Strike at Six Sutter Hospitals in Bay Area
About 3,500 health care workers at six Sutter Health hospitals in the Bay Area have voted to authorize a strike, union officials said Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers Local 250 -- which represents licensed vocational nurses, respiratory therapists, radiology technologists and other hospital personnel -- said the vote does not mean union members definitely will strike. However, union officials said a strike could take place as early as July.
The union has separate contracts at the six hospitals -- Sutter Solano Medical Center, Sutter Delta Medical Center, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, California Pacific Medical Center, Eden Medical Center and St. Luke's Hospital -- but those contracts expired in 2004. The union organized a one-day walk out at the hospitals on Dec. 1, 2004.
The union is seeking a single contract for workers at all six facilities, but Sutter says the hospitals are managed individually and separate contracts should be retained.
According to the Chronicle, the vote gives union officials "a means of putting pressure on Sutter in contract talks."
In a statement, union officials said Sutter is being asked to "bargain in good faith over industry standards that are designed to protect patients." At other hospital chains, the union has been able to negotiate language that gives "workers a voice in staffing levels" and establishes a training and education fund, the Chronicle reports.
Sutter spokesperson Bill Gleeson said the Sutter hospitals have made contract offers that include such opportunities (Raine, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/19).
The Sacramento Business Journal on Monday examined the "spotlight" on recent issues at Sutter Health. According to the Journal, a "number of flare-ups" within the last year have created concerns that "cracks are beginning to appear" in Sutter Health's 26-hospital network.
For example, Sutter Health has faced criticism over hospital prices, especially from CalPERS. Sutter Health's Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae could lose its eligibility to participate in Medicare and Medi-Cal because of alleged safety problems, and Alta Bates Summit Medical Center has received preliminary denial of accreditation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 5/16).