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Health care workers in Northern California strike over short staffing, COVID protocols, pay


(NEW YORK) — More than 8,000 nurses and health care workers in Northern California are planning a one-day strike Monday over staffing and other COVID-19-related concerns.

The employees of Sutter Health, a health delivery system headquartered in Sacramento, are planning to strike at 15 facilities — including locations in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Vallejo — between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

According to a press release from the California Nurses’ Association (CNA), a labor union, the workers are protesting concerns related to staffing shortages as well as health and safety protections they say are putting both patients and staff in danger.

The CNA said the nurses voted to strike in March and alerted Sutter Health of the plans to picket 10 days in advance.

“We have tried repeatedly to address the chronic and widespread problem of short staffing that causes delays in care and potentially puts patients at risk, but hospital administrators continue to ignore us,” Amy Erb, a critical care nurse who works for Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, said in a statement.

The statement continued, “We have a moral and legal obligation to advocate for our patients. We advocate for them at the bedside, at the bargaining table, and if we have to, on the strike line.”

Additionally, the workers alleged Sutter Health did not provide its workers with enough personal protective equipment at the beginning of the pandemic and has refused to invest in stockpiles, ignoring California’s PPE stockpile law.

Staff also said the health network has not been conducting contact tracing after positive cases are reported among staff.

In addition to getting Sutter to address their concerns, the workers are attempting to negotiate higher salaries. Sutter Health told KCRA 3 in a statement it does offer competitive wages and pandemic protections.

“They resist having nurses directly involved in planning and implementation of policies that affect all of us during a pandemic,” Renee Water, a neurotrauma ICU nurse at Sutter, said in a statement. “A fair contract is needed to retain experienced nurses, have sufficient staffing and training, and ensure we have the resources we need to provide safe and effective care for our patients”

The union said nurses and other health care workers have been negotiating with Sutter for a new contract since June 2021 with little advancement.

Sutter did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment. However, in a statement Sunday, the health network said it was hopeful the strike would be called off, referring to it as “disruptive” and “costly.”

“We notified CNA today that if the uncertainty of a strike remains this afternoon, we will staff our hospitals on Monday with the contracted replacement workers,” a spokesperson for Sutter Health said, according to local affiliate ABC 10. “We hope the union will call off this strike so our nurses can work their normal shifts on Monday and do what they do best — care for our patients.”

Sutter also said in its statement negotiations with CNA have resumed with the help of a federal mediator.


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