23,000 California Nurses On Strike

California nurses on strike for no health careNurses in California are willing to play the ultimate card -- the countless services they provide to the state's ailing and ill.

Some 23,000 nurses in the Golden State are going forward with a massive walk-out at 34 hospitals Thursday. They are striking because of labor demands being forced upon them by the Sacramento-based Sutter Health Group. Some of the nurses participating in the strike are employed by the Kaiser Permanente group, but are joining the protest in solidarity.

The concessions, which total some 200 cutbacks, include retirement contributions, sharp hikes in health premiums, and the elimination of paid sick leave. The concessions also include a curtailing of the nurses' ability to advocate for patients, according to a report in The Sacramento Bee.

"We're very concerned about Sutter's positions. This is one of the largest, most profitable hospital chains in California," said Charles Idelson, a spokesman for the CNA. "This is not the March of Dimes, this is a corporation and they've taken a very hard line with RNs."

Indeed, the hospital industry has been one of the few bright spots in a state economy that has been famously battered by the Great Recession. As the Bee reports, the operating revenue at California's hospitals more than doubled from 1999 to 2009, from $31.7 billion to $66.3 billion, state data show. In 2010 alone, Sutter Health saw total income grow to $878 million, compared with $677 million in 2009. And among those riding the profit wave was Sutter Health's CEO Patrick Fry, who earned about $4 million during 2009, including deferred compensation, tax data show.

The strike, which is being organized by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, will not lead to a complete halt in hospital activity at the affected sites.

"The emergency department will be functioning, and babies will be born," said Carolyn Kemp, spokeswoman for Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland and Berkeley, according to a report in the Contra Costa Times. "The only reason we exist is to care for patients."

But many elective surgeries will be put on hold for at least the one scheduled day of the strike. The strike could continue until at least Sept. 27, as the hospitals have been forced to contract replacement staff to maintain the facilities. Many of the sites have adopted five-day contracts.

While California's hospitals have recently been profitable, Sutter argues that rising health care costs and the general economic climate have forced the group to reassess its benefits and compensation packages. Indeed, the showdown in California is further testament that even the most sacrosanct of industries -- medicine -- has not been able to avoid the most dramatic of cuts during the Great Recession. Most famously, St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan shut its doors in 2010, after 160 years of service.

That hospital was drowning in a debt of $700 million.

"The decision to close St. Vincent's Hospital-Manhattan inpatient services was made only after the board, management and our advisers exhausted every possible alternative," Alfred E. Smith IV, chairman of St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, said then in a statement to The New York Times.



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Dan Fastenberg

Dan Fastenberg

Associate Editor

Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.

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charlie4562r

Sacramento, sad to see Jerry's kids conducting themselves this way!

September 23 2011 at 3:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
stripedbass7

1/2 hr. in E.r. $4900.00 No wonder the hospitals broke. they didnt charge me enough. Was given No drugs, no stitches.. put on ekg machine & told O.k. friend in hospital 1 Week, $279,000.00 Then found out a few years later that they billed the state... the SAME ? ? their just not charging enough. If they wouldve charge my friend a Coooool Million $$$$$$$ for the week, they wouldve made a profit.

September 23 2011 at 3:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
stripedbass7

1/2 hr. in E.R. $4900.

September 23 2011 at 2:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BABA Barbara Ann

you need to move to a right to work state. Im an RN in Missouri. We have no unions. This comment is to E

September 23 2011 at 2:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
E

I'm a new grad RN and can't find a job because of nurses unions and such. Those nurses want to walk out on their jobs? I will GLADLY step in and do the job I was educated and trained to do if they won't do it. At least they HAVE a job. And they are walking away from it.

September 23 2011 at 1:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
DONN

Hire Americans that want to work, & give those on strike a taste of the real world. NO UNIMPLOYMENT CHECKS from the taxpayers. UNIONS SUCK.

September 23 2011 at 1:24 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
DRILLER

yes this makes perfect sense,
pay the pencil neck 4 million dollars , and cut the nurses wages and benefits hmm sounds like government run deal

September 23 2011 at 12:46 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
tweets922

One of the oaths you take as a graduating nurse is to never strike. Course back 40 yrs ago, nurses were paid a fair wage with good benefits. The hospitals and government cry and scream, pouding their feet and arms that they are growing broke. It does not take a Rocket Scientist to figure out. If you cannot provide proof of citizenship, they need to return to their home country for the health care they need. Maybe then nurses would not be tied up for hours with someone having a sore thumb or other simple injury, that come in with an attitutde that they are above us and we owe them the care. Some hospitals require nurses to speak Spanish. Isn't that discrimination against the Italians, French, Germans, Hungarian and the many countries and languages? they have no rights, disrespect the nurses taking care of them, come in with all 10 kids and expect a nurse to work around them. Nurses work short staffed, weekends, holidays, and terrible hours. Yet because they work, they have less benefits then the many illeglas they are treating. It no longer pays to be the working class, The nurses who went into nursing because they wanted to help people, are now retiring, refusing to watch health care go down the tubes. Strike my sister nurses. Demand better pay and benefits, better patient to nurse ratio, and demand to only have to speak the language of our Country, English.

September 22 2011 at 11:57 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to tweets922's comment
damnthatwasheavy

You make a lot of really good points but couldn't you college educated women collectively find a way to do business with the management without going on strike? In successful corporate world, if one party wishes to make a deal with another one, striking is the equivalent of stomping your feet and walking away. The patients are going to be the ones who suffer the most.

September 23 2011 at 2:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lockonalpha

tweets922, you hit the nail on the head, especially about illegals. I say if you aren't a legal citizen then you don't get healthcare. I know that sounds really cold but it a person doesn't have a house, why should the person expect others to pay for one for them. The same is true of healthcare. If a person isn't legal why should I pay for their care? I shouldn't and neither should anyone else. I would be really ticked if I was in an emergency room and an illegal was being tended to before me. Also, if you are going to live in this country . . . legally . . . speak English because is what we speak.

September 23 2011 at 2:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lynn

I am an unemployed Radiology tech in California. I would love to have a job. These spoiled nurses just walk out on thiers. They are lucky to be employed. I know alot of Hospital have cut other employees positions so they can afford the nurses salaries. Shame on them for being so greedy.

September 22 2011 at 11:36 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Lon and Bonni

Just returned from the CNA/NNU Convention in San Francisco. This union's agenda is based around an anti free-market v.s. socialism means to our United States. BE CAREFUL! Further, their rant believes in providing healthcare for ALL, including the "undocumented" --- they are called ILLEGALS. We will pay for their healthcare. Many dismiss this as an, "Oh, well...they're here anyway" attitude. In a civilized society, we have "laws of the land" that we must follow, otherwise, we will have chaos. Should I suggest, that you leave your doors unlocked tonight so that you can be burglarized....."Oh, well...they're here anyway."

September 22 2011 at 10:18 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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