October 30, 2012 – Mention nurses in the Bay Area these days and two images come to mind: a caring, nurturing professional at a patient’s bedside, and a perturbed, bullhorn carrying protester walking a picket line. By one estimate, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United has called more than 70 strikes at the state’s hospitals in the past two years. Its members will walk off the job again Thursday, waging a one-day strike against seven East Bay hospitals affiliated with Sutter Health (Aa3 / 1307956R3) as part of an 18-month-long attempt to negotiate a new contract. The powerful union, when it isn’t striking, has held numerous informational pickets at hospitals in the South Bay and East Bay on disputes involving wages and cutbacks that it claims will hinder patient care. In mid-October, although the union has a contract with Kaiser Permanente, its members walked a picket line at Kaiser Oakland seeking increased staffing and more help with lifting patients. The aggressive activity stands in sharp contrast to a decline in strikes across the country as many other unions struggle to maintain a foothold during tough economic times. The thriving CNA, with 80,000 members, said it does not plan to back down. “It’s not our preference to strike, but the hospital employers have really given us no choice,” said Fernando Losada, the union’s collective bargaining director in California. “The hospital industry as a whole is trying to extract concessions from the nurses, and this is at a time of great wealth for many of the hospital chains.” Hospital leaders maintain the nurses are not willing to accept the type of benefit cuts and concessions that have become standard in other industries.
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