Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Strike Wave Continues: Nurses Announce One-Day Strike For 9/22

The recently ended Verizon strike was the largest U.S. strike in recent years, involving 45,000 union members. However, 62,000 Southern California grocery workers are on the verge of striking against Vons, Albertson’s and Ralph’s. The ILWU has been engaged in a long-standing and violent battle in Washington State for the past year, in which military force has been threatened against striking longshoremen. The UAW has recently agreed to postpone a strike against Ford pending settlements with workers at GM and Chrysler. 1,300 workers are striking against American Crystal Sugar. Hotel workers have been striking against Hyatt in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Honolulu. And 25,000 New York City carpenters were recently poised to launch the first citywide construction strike in 80 years.

Now, 23,000 registered nurses at 34 Northern and Central California hospitals are planning a one-day strike for Thursday, September 22, according to Labor Union Report. The strike will primarily affect two of California's largest hospital chains, Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente, and Children's Hospital Oakland.

RNs are protesting major new cuts in patient care and nursing standards. Among the changes, Sutter wants to reduce the ability of nurses to advocate for their patients, force them work when sick, raise their out-of-pocket healthcare costs, and subject them to arbitrary disciplinary policies, despite having made $3.7 billion in profits over the last six years. Kaiser and Children’s Hospital RNs are protesting cuts to their healthcare and retirement coverage, as well as unsafe staffing policies.

Nurses struck Children’s hospital for five days in May over contract disputes and attacks on their benefits. They also struck last year over wages.

Attacks on nurses’ unions and their working conditions have been increasing as large corporate hospitals attempt to increase their profit margins on the nurses’ backs. Hospitals, in general, have mostly done away with the traditional (and common sense) strategy of leaving rooms and beds unoccupied to accommodate patients during emergencies and disasters, consequently increasing the number of patients. They have cut staffing levels, placing patients at risk and increasing the workloads of nurses and other staff members.

Nurses at Washington Hospital Center (WHC) in Washington, D.C., distributed leaflets to patients earlier this year informing them of the consequences of understaffing at WHC. The fliers said that patients were significantly harmed by human errors at a rate of one injury every eight days at WHC, with a death every 45 days, according to an article in Common Dreams. The hospital’s response to the nurses’ act of free speech was to disrupt their union meeting and ban future union meetings from the site. The actions by management led to a series of short strike actions by the WHC nurses.

Nurses’ strikes have also occurred this year in Boston, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and numerous other locations, while teachers have also been protesting attacks on the nursing profession, most recently and appallingly, the new California law allowing teachers to rectally inject diastat into students who are having seizures, rather than staffing schools with trained nurses to provide the medication. National Nurses United recently sponsored a protest against Wall Street speculation, arguing that bankers’ greed was harming the health of regular Americans.

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