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. Sutter, Sacramento, Calif., has been embroiled in a contract dispute with 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 Sutter hospitals in the Bay Area, choosing instead to focus on California Pacific, which the union said bargained in bad faith. According to SEIU-UHW, the hospital initially accepted a settlement recommended by a federal mediator late last month but later backed off amid internal pressure within Sutter. 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," SEIU-UHW President Sal Rosselli said. 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, spokeswoman Christine McMurry said. "We feel SEIU took our good-faith efforts and twisted them for their own benefit," McMurry said. -- by Laura B. Benko