About 5,000 nurses at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's hospitals in Palo Alto, Calif., who are members of the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement, (CRONA) are on strike today, April 25, according to the union.
Union representatives said nurses will call on hospital administrators to listen to their contract proposals to ensure sustainability of nurses as well as excellent patient care. Negotiations are to resume tomorrow, April 26.
"As one of the nation’s top healthcare systems, Stanford and Packard have an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and work with nurses to solve the burnout and exhaustion that is driving many of us to reconsider our jobs and our profession. We've been disappointed by hospital administrators' consistent refusal to acknowledge the reality of understaffing: constant requests for overtime, little time for rest with our families and insufficient support for our mental health," Colleen Borges, president of CRONA and a pediatric oncology nurse at Packard Children's Hospital, said in an April 24 news release.
"A strike has always been the last resort for CRONA nurses, but we are prepared to stand strong and make sacrifices today for the transformative changes that the nursing profession needs. We hope to get back to work quickly under fair contracts that acknowledge nurses' contributions and support excellent patient care."
Nurses at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's hospitals authorized the union to call a strike on April 8 and officially issued a strike notice to hospitals on April 13. Nurses' contracts expired March 31.
Amid the strike news, Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital administrators notified union leaders that its nurse members who strike risk losing pay and health benefits.
Dale Beatty, chief nurse executive and vice president of patient care services for Stanford Health Care, and Jesus Cepero, senior vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer for Stanford Children's Health, said in a statement earlier this month that nurses who choose to strike will not be paid for shifts they miss.
"In addition, employer-paid health benefits will cease on May 1 for nurses who go out on strike and remain out through the end of the month in which the strike begins," they said.
Beatty and Cepero told Becker’s Healthcare Review on April 24 that striking nurses may pay to continue their health coverage through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.
"Our hospitals' employer-paid premiums for health benefits are only provided to employees who are actively engaged in working for the hospitals," their statement said. "This standard practice is not unique to our hospitals and applies to any of our employees who are not working, are on unpaid status, and are not on an approved leave."
Meanwhile, Beckers reported that the union had organized a petition to tell Stanford not to cut off medical benefits for nurses and their families during the strike. As of April 25, the petition had more than 29,656 signatures. It was delivered to hospital leaders on April 22.
"Hospital executives are trying to use our health benefits as a weapon to break our resolve and prevent the strike," the petition said. "This decision is cruel and immoral. Health benefits should not be used against workers, and especially against the very healthcare professionals who have made Stanford a world-class health system."
Both hospitals remain open during the strike, and replacement nurses have been brought in to work alongside other employees. As a result of the strike, the hospitals said the volume of services in some areas will be reduced and some elective procedures are being rescheduled.
Beatty and Cepero said Stanford "will continue to work toward an agreement with CRONA on a contract that our nurses can support and be proud of."
The strike began at approximately 6:45am at Stanford and 7am at Packard. The union has not announced a strike end date and is scheduled to be back at the bargaining table April 26.
The Stanford strike comes at a time of labor turmoil among nursing staffs across the state.
Registered nurses at UCLA Medical Center and UCSF Medical Center announced they will hold rallies and press conferences on Wednesday, April 27 to demand the University of California (UC) address critical, ongoing staffing and patient safety issues highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) said UC nurses will share their concerns about patient care, safe staffing issues and an overall lack of cooperation by UC management and demand that the university prioritize patient care over profits.
“Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, nurses have been outraged as we have watched our hospitals fail to provide the basic resources to protect us, such as personal protective equipment and adequate RN staffing,” said David Yamada, a registered nurse at UCLA. “For the past two years, management has publicly called us heroes while at the same time failing to adequately address the ongoing needs of the frontline staff and continuously violating our contract protections. As we head into bargaining this year, we want UC management to know we are ready, willing, and able to fight for our patients and our profession.”
CRONA said on its website that “It became clear that the hospitals are still not listening and responding to what nurses need in new contracts,” after 13 weeks of negotiations, and three days with a federal mediator.
Registered nurses also will hold informational pickets and public actions April 27 at Tenet hospitals throughout California, including San Ramon, San Luis Obispo and seven other hospitals.
Nurses and health care workers at 15 Sutter Health facilities across Northern California held a one-day strike on April 18 to protest Sutter Health’s refusal to address their proposals about safe staffing and health and safety protections.
The California Nurses Association represents more than 17,000 nurses in the University of California health system and is affiliated with National Nurses United, the nation’s largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of nurses, with more than 175,000 members nationwide.