Nurses at the Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children’s hospitals began striking Monday morning after negotiations between the hospitals and the local nurses union fell through, following conflict over the hospitals’ newly proposed contracts.
Nearly 5000 nurses went on strike after a three month negotiation process between the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement and the hospitals to renew expired contracts stalled. The most recent negotiations discussed wages, retention bonuses, better health benefits and hospital-provided access to mental health counseling.
Mark O’ Neill, a CRONA union member and nurse, said nurses are striking because of a combination of factors.
“I think everybody nationwide has realized that exposure to COVID-19 and high stress (has) decimated the nursing population that coincides with our new contract,” O’Neill said. “We approach (these negotiations) with a lot of innovative ideas on how to make nursing more sustainable and help Stanford have better work-life balance.”
O’Neill said CRONA felt Stanford has been undermining the union’s efforts over the past few years. “We were expecting the hospitals to turn around to say to us, ‘We (appreciate) your dedication, hard work and for giving us all those extra hours over the last couple of years to help us survive one of the worst pandemics we’ve seen in modern history,’” O’Neill said. “However, they have not done that—they’ve done the exact opposite. They’ve said, ‘We are going to try to make our proposals more punitive.’”
In an April 13 statement, Stanford Health Care Chief Nurse Executive Dale Beatty and Stanford Children’s Health Chief Nurse Executive Jesus Cepero said nurses have already been offered numerous benefits. “We are proud of our nurses and have proposed highly competitive contract terms, including market-leading pay and proposals that further our commitment to enhanced nurse staffing and wellness,” Beatty and Cepero said. “We have made significant investments in nurse staffing in recent years, even as many hospitals face unprecedented staffing challenges … We will continue to work toward an agreement with CRONA that our nurses can support and be proud of.”
Agreeing with CRONA, O’Neill said he felt the union’s demands were fair — more should be done to help nurses. “We wanted to tackle wages,” O’Neill said. “Inflation is going out the window this year. We can’t afford to live here. We’re facing long commute times for an hour plus in each direction. Gas is really expensive. It’s just not sustainable.”