Nurses on strike at 13 Bay Area hospitals

Some 5,000 registered nurses at 15 hospitals in Northern California went on strike at 7 a.m. today to take a stance on labor issues plaguing them, according to a California Nurses Association spokesman. The strike is expected to last two days and will impact 13 hospitals operated by the Sutter Health chain, including California Pacific Medical Center and St. Luke's hospitals in San Francisco and Mills-Peninsula Health Services in Burlingame and San Mateo.

California Nurses Association Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro says the principal issues in labor talks that have been going on since May are patient care practices as well as health insurance benefits.

But spokespersons at the 13 Sutter hospitals, which are negotiating individually with the union, say they believe their contract offers are generous and they don't plan any reduction in health benefits.

Kevin McCormack, the spokesman at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco said he believes the dispute actually centers on what he describes as the union's “aggressive membership drive.”

He says the union wants to change the organizing language in nurses' contracts so that it's easier for the union to recruit more members.

Sutter hospitals that will be affected include California Pacific Medical Center and St. Luke's hospitals in SanFrancisco, Mills-Peninsula Health Services (Burlingame and San Mateo), Alta Bates Summit Medical Center (with facilities in Berkeley and Oakland), San Leandro Hospital, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, and Sutter Delta in Antioch. Also affected are Sutter Solano in Vallejo, Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa, Sutter Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae and Sutter Novato.

The strike is scheduled to end at 7 a.m. Friday.

However, the nurses' union says management at some of the hospitals has threatened to prolong the dispute with a lockout of striking nurses for up to an additional three days after the strike begins.

McCormack and Debbie Goodin, vice president of human resources at Mills-Peninsula in Burlingame and San Mateo, both say they think many nurses at their hospitals will cross the picket lines and report to work as normal during the strike.

— Bay City News

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