Sutter RNs End 10-Day Walkout

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday April 01, 2008

Posted Wed., April 2—The ten-day strike that hit Sutter Health's Bay Area hospitals ended Monday with the start of the 7 a.m. shift. 

Registered nurses for the two Alta Bates Summit medical facilities in Berkeley had walked out with the morning shift March 21, their third action since talks with the non-profit chain's hospitals had reached an impasse. 

The California Nurses Association, which represents RNs, announced in advance that the walkout would be for ten days, while the two earlier one-day walkouts were extended to five-day lockouts by Sutter, which said the extended period was needed to attract temporary replacements. 

While the first walkout was supported by licensed vocational nurses and other workers belonging to the United Health Care Workers West, the Service Employees International Union's California healthcare division, a subsequent dispute between the two labor organizations has since blocked cooperation between them. 

The SEIU split from the AFL-CIO umbrella in July 2005, along with the powerful Teamsters, and the two hospital workers' unions have emerged as bitter rivals nationally, with the CNA organizing as the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC). 

The NNOC has won votes in Nevada and Texas, becoming the first union ever to win a hospital organizing election in the Lone Star State on March 29 in Houston. 

CNA officials said the East Bay Sutter strike wasn't about wages, but about patient care standards and reductions in benefits, while Sutter charged the walkout was about increasing union membership and clout. 

Sutter has insisted on separate contracts with member hospitals and hospital groups, and while CNA originally sought a master contract with the chain, the union subsequently shelved the demand. 

With neither side giving after the latest walkout, further walkouts could lie ahead. 

Just what percentage of RNs stayed out or work remains an open question, with Sutter claiming early in the strike that less than 60 percent of nurses at the three Alta Bates Summit facilities-Herrick Hospital and Alta Bates Summit in Berkeley and Summit Medical Center in Oakland-had honored the picket lines. 

CNA spokesperson Shum Preston had blasted the claim as a lie. 

Neither Sutter Health nor CNA officials returned calls for this story.