The two largest healthcare unions in Northern California struck the two largest healthcare organizations in the region late last week.
The California Nurses Association walked out on 47 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics Thursday and Friday, in a running dispute over pay, benefits and patient care. About 7,500 nurses were involved.
Service Employees International Union Local 250, meanwhile, stopped work at three Sutter Health hospitals on Thursday. The union, representing about 700 food, linen, maintenance, licensed vocational nurses and other support workers at those facilities, wants Sutter to stop subcontracting out union jobs and to remain neutral on future organizing.
The struck hospitals were Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch; Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo; and Sutter Roseville Medical Center in Roseville.
The Kaiser strike followed a failure to get contract talks rolling again in a long negotiating session on July 12. Spokesman Tom Debley said Kaiser is "totally frustrated. Union leaders have shown themselves to be masters of hysterical slash-and-burn sound bites in the media but have yet to show what they can do for nurses or patients at a bargaining table other than say no."
This was the CNA's second walkout since April, when it staged a one-day protest. CNA spokesman Chuck Idelson said Kaiser angered the union by asking for "13 major takeaways" including deep cuts in wages, of 19% to 35% off present rates, for newly hired nurses.
At Sutter Health, based in Sacramento, hospitals handle their own labor negotiations and settle their own contracts, spokesman Bill Gleeson said. "The strikes are an obvious attempt by union leaders to force the system to move local decisionmaking authority from our affiliates to the system level."
Local 250 President Sal Rosselli said the ban on subcontracting is a standard feature in contracts with 18 other hospitals.
Gleeson said the three hospitals continued to operate without the strikers, unlike Kaiser's facilities, which had to transfer patients out.
Meanwhile, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Vassar Brothers Hospital late on July 17 reached a tentative agreement with Local 1199 for a new contract, avoiding a threatened strike by 350 workers there.