Bay Area nurses picket Sutter Health hospitals


SAN LEANDRO, Bay Area, California—For the third time in less than a year, the California Nurses Association (CNA) staged a one-day strike on May 1 at eight hospitals of the Sutter Health chain in the Bay Area to protest alleged cutbacks in medical services, proposed reductions on hospital workers’ benefits, and deterioration of working conditions.

The strike was held amid the year-old stalemate on negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. The eight strike sites were Alta Bates Summit Medical Center facilities in Berkeley and Oakland, Mills-Peninsula Health Services hospitals in Burlingame and San Mateo, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, San Leandro Hospital, Sutter Delta in Antioch, Sutter Solano in Vallejo, Novato Community Hospital, and Sutter Lakeside.

“The ongoing cutbacks in services and proposed reductions in our benefits and deterioration in our working condition by Sutter are unthinkable at this time especially since they, supposedly a non-profit health system, are earning not just a measly profit,” rued Vicky Mendoza, a Filipino registered nurse who is part of the bargaining team for a new contract. “Our contract expired last summer but up until now we still don’t have a contract.”

CNA protesters said that Sutter Health continues to compromise health services to patients, even as the company reported earning some $4 billion in profits since 2007.

In a news release, CNA berated Sutter for proposing conditions that would effectively 1)force nurses to work when sick, dangerously exposing already fragile patients to infection and further complications; 2)effect thousands of dollars in increased costs to nurses for health coverage for themselves and their families; 3)force many nurses to work in hospital units for which they do not have clinical expertise, thus posing a risk to patients, and 4)impose huge cuts for nurses who work part time schedules.

Said Mendoza to FilAm Star:  “We are amenable to the extension of our contract as it is now without any demand for increased wages and benefits from us, as long as there will be no takeaways. But they are demanding cutbacks in our sick leaves, health benefits and our vacations.”

Mendoza also cited that among those Sutter management wants to abolish is the 3/5 position, as it refers to nurses working three days a week but are earning benefits. According to her, Sutter now only wants either part-time employees (without benefits)  or full-time workers.

Of the 3/5 employees that would be affected, many are Filipinos, who, in San Leandro Hospital alone, comprise some 55 to 60 percent of the workforce spread in various departments such as housekeeping and kitchen. Majority of the nurses in that East Bay facility are also Filipinos.

“San Leandro Hospital may be a small community hospital but if they close this down, some 30.000 patients we attend to yearly in the emergency room alone would be deprived of medical services,” Mendoza said.

Asked on their next moves after the one-day strike, Mendoza told FilAm Star they will just keep fighting for what they believe in and will not be giving up on issues like the closure of San Leandro Hospital and the takeaways in their benefits.

“We have to take care of ourselves, too, just as we take care of the sick,” Mendoza said.

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  • Miggs

    Honestly this is a very bad image to start a thing…rather, find another facility that could sustain the benefits for the workers. Fighting this matter, on this very hard economic times could be a wrong move. The $ 4 Bil profit does not go the wages alone but also to the different IOU’s of the hospital and its affiliates. CA has more hospitals other that Sutter. Filipino healthcare workers needs to protect our integrity and image…Hospitals can decline staff if notably involve in such rebellious activity…were here to survive if we compare it to our old life in the Philippines. This is not the time to go into a mass protests….again, there are a lot of options to move out of your status quo and by this means draining of Filipino staff with great care experience can result from Sutter Health management to accept a compromise. Let us not resort to a demonstration mentality…let us be more intellectual in our approach.

    • Mark Peralta

      IOUs for operations were already booked as expense. The $4B profit is already net of expenses (interest on IOUs, expenses where the IOUs were used, and wages).  The whole $4B will go to either expansion purposes or to investors (if profit oriented).  Let us think more intellectually…Paying debts concern liquidity and not profitability. Labor union is an internationally recognized right of workers.

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