University of California Nurses Approve Strike If Agreement Not Reached ‘Soon’
University of California health system nurses voted "overwhelmingly" this week to authorize a strike if negotiations on a new contract "don't produce a breakthrough soon," the Los Angeles Times reports. Union officials said about 95% of voting nurses agreed to a strike during balloting on Tuesday and Wednesday but did not say how many of the health system's 8,000 nurses voted. The officials also said they would give the health system -- which has hospitals in Davis, Irvine, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Monica and Westwood and clinics at four UC campuses -- 10 days notice before striking (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 5/10). Contract negotiations are scheduled to resume Monday (Fong, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/10). Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, said, "UC will have one more opportunity to do the job in negotiations next week or a strike will certainly occur, probably before the end of this month" (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 5/10).
One of the contract disputes concerns UC's merit-pay system, which nurses have said is "haphazard and too dependent on the whims of managers." The nurses are asking for a pay system based on seniority instead (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/10). They are "demanding" a 10% annual increase and dispute UC's claim that the system has offered pay increases of up to 13% over a two-year period (Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/10). The nurses also want a contract that prohibits mandatory overtime and immediately implements minimum nurse-to-patient ratios (Los Angeles Times, 5/10). If a strike occurs, it could "flood the short-staffed emergency rooms" of hospitals in surrounding areas, which are already "overflowing with patients," the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/10). But union officials said that UC nurses, who have never before gone on strike, would be allowed to cross picket lines and provide care for patients who are "experiencing a life-or-death emergency" (Los Angeles Times, 5/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.