Alta Bates Registered Nurses Stage Walkout

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Posted Thurs., March 20—Registered nurses at Berkeley’s Alta Bates Summit and Herrick Hospitals are walking out Friday for a 10-day strike against the Sutter hospital chain. 

It’s the third walkout called by the California Nurses Association (CNA) since contract talks stalled with the Sutter hospitals—which negotiate contracts individually for each hospital or group. 

Alta Bates Summit includes the Berkeley hospital on Ashby Avenue, the Summit Medical Center in Oakland and Herrick Hospital. 

CNA has called two previous job actions at the local hospitals, one called for two days in October and the second three years ago, a one-day action. 

In both cases Sutter locked out the nurses following the actions, extending their absence to five days—a move the hospitals said was needed to attract replacements. 

While the first walkout was supported by members of the Service Employees International Union, the two unions have since fallen out, most recently over rival organizing activities in Ohio. 

In California, CNA represents Registered Nurses, while the SEIU, as United Healthcare Workers West, represents Licensed Vocational Nurses and other hospital employees. RNs require a higher level of training than LVNs. 

A total of 4,000 RNs will walk out at Sutter’s bay area hospitals, starting at 7 a.m. Friday. 

Other hospitals affected include Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, Miller-Peninsula Health Services in Burlingame and San Mateo, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, San Leandro Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital and California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo. 

San Francisco-Based HealthSource and Colorado-Based U.S. Nursing—agencies that specialize in hiring strike replacements—have both recruited nurses to fill in for striking Sutter workers. 

U.S. Nursing was offering $48 to $60 an hour for RNs, depending on speciality, with a guarantee of 84 hours of work or a minimum of $2,880 if the strike is settled after they arrive but before they start work. 

All travel and housing expenses would also be paid. 

In one of the more unusual press release issued over a labor conflict, Sutter blasted the union for “Promoting a ‘Party Like’ Atmosphere During the 10-Day Strike.” 

Apparently believing that strikes should be somber events, Sutter reprinted a union schedule which stated that family-oriented events would be held every day during the walkout, including face-painting, arts and crafts and a noon barbecue. 

However, Sutter’s hiring sources offer promises of their own, with HealthSource, however, noting in its call for replacements “Typically, you are housed in luxury hotels with all amenities available.”