Nurses Walk Off Job at Calif. Hospitals

(Hispanic Business) Hundreds of registered nurses walked off the job Thursday morning at seven East Bay hospitals affiliated with Sutter Health in the latest salvo in a longstanding dispute over wages, benefits and service cutbacks.

The hospitals have hired replacement nurses on five-day contracts and plan to lock out the striking employees until 7 a.m. Tuesday. 

This marks the sixth time since September 2011 that the California Nurses Association/ National Nurses United has gone on strike and set up picket lines in front of Sutter facilities in the Bay Area.

The affected hospitals are three Alta Bates Summit Medical Center facilities in Oakland and Berkeley, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, San Leandro Hospital, Sutter Delta in Antioch and Sutter Solano in Vallejo.

The nurses and Sutter have been embroiled in negotiations over a new contract for 18 months.

The union maintains that although Sutter has made nearly $4.2 billion in profits since 2005, it is seeking numerous cutbacks in nurses’ sick leave, health insurance and other benefits, working conditions, and services that it claims will hinder patient care.

“We must be able to care for our patients without having our professional standards eroded,” said Elena Ballard, a registered nurse at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley. “That is what this contract fight is all about.”

Sutter counters that the nurses, who make about $136,000 annually for full-time work, are not willing to
accept the type of benefit cuts and concessions that have become standard in other industries.

“We will continue to offer competitive wages and benefits but will reject unreasonable demands that unnecessarily increase costs,” said Karen Garner, communications director for Sutter Health.