About 800 healthcare workers launched an open-ended strike at Sutter Health's California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco, to protest the hospital's rejection of a compromise contract agreement.
Sacramento-based Sutter has long been embroiled in a contract dispute with the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers-West, which has pushed for a master agreement covering all 27 Sutter hospitals. The union suspended previous plans to strike at nine of Sutter's Bay Area hospitals, choosing instead to focus exclusively on three-campus California Pacific, which it said bargained in bad faith.
According to the SEIU-UHW, the hospital initially accepted a settlement proposal recommended by a federal mediator late last month, but later backed off amid internal pressure within the Sutter system. The settlement would have eliminated a master contract but granted caregivers a training fund, a voice in staffing decisions, the right to unionize without interference and other concessions that SEIU has sought.
"We were shocked when they tried to disavow their own agreement," said SEIU-UHW President Sal Rosselli.
California Pacific contends it had not formally agreed to the settlement before the union announced it last week. A major sticking point for California Pacific was the right to organize without hospital input, said spokeswoman Christine McMurry. "We feel SEIU took our good-faith efforts and twisted them for their own benefit," she said.