Hundreds of nurses in several states are threatening to strike over hospital conditions and pandemic concerns.
Over 800 nurses who work in San Joaquin County’s health system in California have agreed to delay a strike that was set to start on Feb. 27.
The nurses, who work at San Joaquin General Hospital in French Camp, Calif., and in public health and county jails and clinics, were set to from Feb. 27 to March 2 at the hospital and county administration building.
However, the San Joaquin County board of supervisors has authorized county administrators to offer nurses represented by the California Nurses Association a one-time payment of $1.2 million as a sign of good faith to avoid a possible strike, Tom Patti, chair of the board of supervisors, said in a Feb. 22 statement.
Patti said this strike delay allows for a 45-day cooling-off period to give both sides time to negotiate.
“The county board and administrators have tremendous respect and appreciation for the work our nurses perform every day. We also acknowledge their work has been made even more challenging as a result of the pandemic,” Patti said.
“We nurses are pleased to get back to the bargaining table,” Kelly Mertz, a registered nurse at San Joaquin General Hospital, said in a Feb. 22 news release. “It is unconscionable that we nurses have been without a contract for two years. We cannot recruit and retain experienced nurses without a fair contract. We have had 160 nurses leave San Joaquin County’s health system since the pandemic began.”
The county and union have agreed to return to the bargaining table this week, according to the California Nurses Association.
The Oregon Federation of Nurses representing 156 technical employees at St. Charles Health System’s St. Charles Bend hospital campus filed a strike notice Feb. 22, according to a hospital news release.
The strike of indefinite duration is set to begin March 4 unless an agreement is reached.
Hospital management and the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals have been in negotiations for more than a year but have not been able to fully resolve issues, including wage structure and cost-of-living increases, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
“We were driven to do this by the hospital,” labor organizer Sam Potter told the publication. “Our members have been waiting for and fighting for fair pay and a fair contract. We’ve waited long enough.”
Aaron Adams, president of the St. Charles Bend and Redmond (Ore.) campuses, said: “St. Charles and all of our caregivers have been at the forefront of treating our community members with COVID-19. Our organization is also deeply involved in running large-scale community vaccination clinics for three counties alongside our Deschutes County partners. While this strike notice cannot slow our efforts to meet these critical community needs, it just adds new — and unnecessary — challenges when our community needs us most.”
The hospital said both sides had already agreed to meet March 10 with a federal mediator, and earlier bargaining dates of March 3, 4 or 5, were also under consideration when the strike notice was delivered.
However, St. Charles “will now be required to direct its time to strike preparation rather than negotiations and will be unable to meet during the notice period,” the hospital said.
St. Charles said its leaders also plan to file an unfair labor practice charge against the union with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the union of bad faith bargaining.
Heritage Valley Health System, which owns and operates a hospital in Beaver, Pa., must arbitrate its dispute with a union over whether the hospital breached their collective bargaining agreement by assigning registered nurses to work as patient care assistants, a federal appeals court said.
Heritage Valley and the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania entered into an agreement effective from July 1, 2016 until June 30, 2019.
In 2018, the union filed a grievance under the agreement alleging that the hospital assigned registered nurses to work as patient care assistants multiple times, in violation of mandatory nurse-to-patient staffing ratios that were bargained for between both sides, according to court documents.
The union and hospital disagree on whether the contract requires arbitration of the alleged breach.
Heritage Valley contends its actions were allowed and excluded from the contract arbitration clause, while the union sued the hospital in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, claiming its grievance was an arbitrable violation.
The district court sided with the union, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit backed that decision.