Nurses Gearing up for Strike Action to Protest Sutter Unfair, Dangerous Cuts

Nurses with California Nurses Association/National Nurses United are gearing up for major strike action this month. Thousands of RNs at more than a dozen hospitals will be walking out on the job on Wednesday, June 13 to protest corporate economic cuts that threaten patient care and nursing standards.

It will mark the fourth walkout in nine months for nurses at Sutter Health hospitals. The wealthy Sacramento-based corporation — which made nearly $4.2 billion in profits since 2005 — continues to demand more than 100 widespread concessions. Some of the takeaways include eliminating paid sick leave, effectively forcing nurses to work when ill, and making RNs work in hospital areas where they do not have appropriate clinical expertise, again a safety risk for patients.

“With Sutter's malevolent speed-up and endangering of patient care, we have no alternative than to be on the strike line. It's a small price to pay for the safety of our patients, now and in the future,” said Eric Koch, an RN at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland.

The strike will affect 4,500 RNs, as well as X-ray and other technicians at nearly a dozen Bay Area hospitals. They also are fighting against Sutter’s ongoing reductions to patient services, including the latest closure of a unit at the Alta Bates Summit Herrick hospital in Berkeley that provides care for patients with long-term disabilities.

“It’s all about money for Sutter,” said CNA co-president Zenei Cortez, RN. “They don’t think they can squeeze enough profit from these extremely fragile and weak patients so they are essentially just kicking them out, regardless of what is in the best interest of the patients’ health.”

On the same day, nurses at Petaluma Valley Hospital, which is part of the Orange County-based St. Joseph Health System, will hold a one-day strike while hundreds of RNs from St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka and St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley will hold pickets in support of their nurse colleagues.

“Nurses at Petaluma Valley Hospital have had enough,” said Petaluma RN Kitty Brown. “St. Joseph Health System has engaged in illegal bad faith bargaining and unilaterally implemented cuts that have a direct impact on our ability to provide safe patent care. The hospital has cut our resources to the bone and will be in the streets on June 13 to advocate for our patients and our community.”

In Santa Monica, nurses, who voted to join CNA a year ago, are fighting for their first contract.  Saint Johns Health Center officials refuse to budge on issues RNs say undermined the quality of care and standards for RNs, including safe staffing and fairness in wages and benefits.

“New nurses come here to get training and experience, then leave to get better pay somewhere else,” said Saint John's Labor & Delivery RN Lori Hammond. “High turnover means low experience levels. Patients and insurers pay top dollar for care at Saint John's, and they deserve the most experienced nurses who can provide safe quality care.”

For more information on the strikes, go to www.nationalnursesunited.org