University of California Nurses Plan One-Day Strike
The California Nurses Association on Friday announced that the 8,300 nurses it represents at five University of California teaching hospitals have voted against a proposed contract and are planning a one-day strike on July 21, the Sacramento Bee reports (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 7/9). The strike would be the first by UC nurses and could be the largest nursing strike in the United States, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune (Skidmore, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/9).
CNA on June 22 recommended that UC nurses reject a contract proposal by the UC system and approve a possible one-day strike. CNA and the UC system have been negotiating the contract since February. The contract, which expired April 30, was extended three times while negotiations continued, most recently to July 8 (California Healthline, 6/24).
CNA in a statement attributed the contract disagreement to "the university's hard-line stance" on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) proposals on changes to state pension plans and nurse staffing requirements.
CNA opposes Schwarzenegger's proposal to replace "defined benefit" pensions for state employees with 401(k)-style private accounts. CNA said UC plans to require university employees to pay 8% of their salaries toward the pension system. Workers currently make no pension contributions.
CNA leaders also "pushed for the strike" because they think Schwarzenegger will continue to push for changes to state nurse-to-patient ratio rules, the Bee reports. CNA wants the UC contract to guarantee the current ratio even if changes to the state rules are approved (Sacramento Bee, 7/9).
UC officials said the strike is unlawful because negotiations are continuing and suggested that they might file unfair labor practice charges against CNA.
UC officials said the "main sticking point" in contract negotiations was salaries, the Union-Tribune reports. UC officials said the union is seeking a salary increase of as much as 28% above what has been offered (San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/9).
UC spokesperson Noel Van Nyhuis said that UC has prepared for the strike by contracting replacement nurses at each hospital except UC-Davis.
UC Davis spokesperson Carol Gan said, "We are in the process of finalizing our contingency plans as it relates to the nurses' strike, and we will announce these plans over the next several days."
UC officials said the union has been given a written guarantee that pension benefits would not be changed over the duration of the next two-year contract (Sacramento Bee, 7/9).