23,000 California Nurses Prepare to Strike Thursday

Thursday will be monumental. That’s when nearly 23,000 registered nurses at 34 Northern and Central California hospitals will hold a one-day strike.

The massive walk-out is sending a message to two of California’s largest and most profitable hospital chains, Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente, as well as Children’s Hospital in Oakland.

Nurses, who are members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, are fighting against attacks on their right to speak out for patient care, as well as cuts in healthcare, and retiree coverage for registered nurses and other frontline healthcare workers.

Sutter Health — which made $3.7 billion in profits the last six years — is proposing massive cuts to protections that safeguard nursing practices, adequate staffing, and patient care. The takeaways vary by facility but the list totals more than 150.

For example, Sutter wants to eliminate paid sick leave, a move that would force some nurses to work when sick and expose frail patients to infections. They want nurses to pay thousands more for their own and their families’ health care. Sutter wants to punish nurses who speak up to protect patients.

Sharon Tobin, a registered nurse at Sutter Mills-Peninsula in Burlingame:

A common theme throughout management’s proposals is removing our presence on committees that address important patient care issues. As nurses, we speak up, and we insist on standards that safeguard our patients, but Sutter doesn’t want to hear about anything that might cut into their huge profits.

At Kaiser hospitals, nurses are participating in a sympathy strike to support other frontline healthcare workers, including social workers, psychologists, and optometrists, who face demands for cuts to health benefits.

According to CNA Co-President Zenei Cortez, a registered nurse who heads the Kaiser CNA Joint Bargaining Council:

Everyone deserves high-quality healthcare and retirement security, whether you are a registered nurse, another caregiver, or any other American. That should be the hallmark of a humane and caring society.

For Children’s Hospital Oakland registered nurses, this strike marks the third one over efforts by the hospital administration to limit healthcare coverage for nurses and their families.

Martha Kuhl, a registered nurse at Children’s, said

They are taking advantage of the economic times and trying to roll back improvement we have won over many years through our CNA contract. Everyone deserves healthcare and if nurses can’t afford healthcare, who will be able to? I am a caregiver and patient advocate and that extends into my community as well.

Join the nurses on the picket lines Thursday. The strike runs from 7 a.m. Thursday to 7 a.m. Friday. You can get strike updates on our Twitter page or by following the hashtag #RNstrike. For more information, visit us on Facebook and at our website.