Local nurses join statewide strike

As nurses across California went on strike Thursday, massive groups of local nurses and supporters gathered to protest at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center hospitals in Berkeley.

Nurses from the California Nurses Association, who walked off the job at affiliate hospitals across the state, protested “200 sweeping demands for concessions” they believe would restrict their abilities to effectively advocate for patients as well as reduce patient care, according to a media release from the union. Contract negotiations between the union and Alta Bates have been ongoing since May.

At 12 p.m. Thursday, more than 250 local nurses and supporters assembled at the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center campus on Hawthorne Avenue.

“I would be happy just going back to the old contract,”  said Jacqueline Musich, who said she has been a labor and delivery nurse for the past 17 years. “This is an unprecedented number of takeaways. It feels malicious.”

The union outlined its frustrations in a National Nurses United — of which the California Nurses Association is a sector — media release, stating that Sutter Health wanted to eliminate paid sick leave, reduce retiree health coverage and hinder the ability of charge nurses to advocate for patients.

A statement from Alta Bates  said it will remain committed to providing nurses with competitive wages and benefits.

Replacement nurses are keeping the hospital staffed for the next five days.

“We’re losing pay for five days because we want to strike for one day,” said Tanja Schlosser, an Alta Bates nurse for more than 20 years. “Other hospitals don’t do this — it’s putting patients at risk.  We could be back to work tomorrow.”

Carolyn Kemp, director of public relations for Alta Bates, said it was necessary to sign a five-day agreement in order to get nurses of high caliber.

“I’ve never seen so many nurses out in the picket line so spirited and yet so angry,” said Liz Jacobs, communications specialist for the state union.

The hospital staff is scheduled to resume bargaining on Monday, according to Jacobs.

Kemp said Alta Bates hopes to reach an agreement with the union and welcome back the protesters to work Tuesday.