Several thousand Bay Area Sutter Health registered nurses at seven hospitals, including Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame, participated in a one-day strike today to highlight a contract dispute over nurse benefits that has spanned nearly a full year. This is the fifth strike by Sutter nurses in the last nine months.
Along with the 3,500 registered nurses, several hundred technicians took part in the one-day protest, according to the California Nurses Association. Sticking points in contract negotiations include the amount employees pay toward their health care and the nurses' demand for paid sick days.
Sutter Health officials say full-time nurses are given up to 40 paid days off for vacation, sick days and other personal uses. California Nurses Association spokesman Charles Idelson said that after the first strike in September, contract agreements were reached with local Sutter Health administrators at Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa and Sutter Lakeside Hospital, of Lakeport, Calif.
"We hope the executives at other local hospitals will make similar decisions," Idelson said. He said Sutter Health is putting profits above taking care of its nurses.
"When you're that removed from the community, you don't care about the people you trample on," he said of Sutter executives.
Sutter Health spokeswoman Karen Garner said, "Our obligation is to take care of both our nurses and patients ... instead they demand new benefits that will increase the cost of health care for patients."
Garner said that on average, full-time RNs earn more than $130,000 annually with the option of choosing either 100 percent employer-paid benefits or low-cost health benefits with an employer-paid pension plan.
Rallies were held at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley at 11 a.m.; Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland at 1 p.m.; San Leandro Hospital at 3 p.m.; and Mills-Peninsula Health Services in Burlingame at 5 p.m.
In addition to the rallies, nurses picketed at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, Mills-Peninsula Health Services in San Mateo and Alta Bates Summit Medical Center Herrick facility in Berkeley. Sutter officials said that despite the CNA-called strike, many nurses continued to work, citing a 62 percent work rate at Eden Medical Center and a 47 percent rate at Alta Bates Summit.
The two sides are scheduled to meet next on July 11.
--Bay City News