Some work, some picket in nurses strike

More picketing and rallies are happening today on the second day of a nurses strike at 13 Sutter Health hospitals in the Bay Area.

The strike began 7 a.m. Thursday and will end Saturday morning.

Some hospitals have hired replacement workers who will work through Monday. A similar two-day strike was held in October.

Sutter Health claims “impressive numbers” of nurses showed up for work Thursday morning despite the strike.

As many as 66 percent worked at Sutter's Santa Rosa facility and 62 percent at the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center's three campuses in Berkeley and Oakland, Sutter Health said in an e-mail. At other facilities, between 18 and 50 percent of nurses crossed the picket lines, Sutter Health said.

Around 60 percent of the nurses crossed the picket lines today at the Alta Bates Summit campuses, said Carolyn Kemp, a spokeswoman for Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.

Kemp said 5,000 nurses at the 13 facilities are eligible to strike but not all have. She said in October, 47 percent of the nurses went to work.

Liz Jacobs, spokeswoman for the California Nurses Organization, disputed Sutter Health's figures.

“For the most part, 95 percent honored the picket line in October.

It's the same or better across the board now,” she said.

The nurses are striking to protest what they consider serious patient care issues including safe staffing at all times even during rest and meal breaks, Sutter's attempt to close three community hospitals in the Bay Area that serve a patient population that is poorer and composed of more people of color than other Sutter hospitals, and medical benefits and pension improvements.

Sutter Health officials say the nurses' union wants one master contract for allSutter hospitals so it will be easier for nurses to join the union. The nurses union negotiates separately with the Sutter Health facilities. No contract talks are scheduled.

Rallies were scheduled for late this morning at the Mills-Peninsula Health Services in Burlingame and another was scheduled for this afternoon at St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco.

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