Nurses strike at Alta Bates Hospital: one of 11 Bay Area hospitals run by Sutter Health where walk-outs took place today. Photo: Tracey Taylor

An estimated 4,500 registered nurses from 11 Bay Area hospitals, including Berkeley’s Alta Bates, went out on a one-day strike today to protest what they say are some 100 concessions to patient care being made by their employer, Sutter Health.

Dozens of staff gathered outside Alta Bates on Ashby starting at 7am this morning and they plan to be there until 7pm tonight. Most of them were wearing red and many solicited support, in the form of honking horns, from passing cars.

“We are protesting the cuts Sutter Health has made to community services,” said Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, a spokesperson for the protesters. “There are over 60 propositions on the table which make it very difficult for us to treat patients.”

Pardue-Okimoto said negotiations between nursing staff and Sutter Health management have been ongoing since May last year and that very minimal progress had been made.

“We are not asking for more,” she said. “We will keep the status quo. We just don’t want any takeaways. They need to take the 60 propositions off the table.” One key issue, Pardue-Okimoto said, was Sutter Health’s desire to combine sick time with vacation time.

This is the most recent of four once-day walk-outs by Sutter Health nurses in the past eight months. The last one was on May 1.

Sutter Health said that 42% of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center staff came to work today. In a section of its website devoted to the CNA negotiations, they wrote that union negotiators “continued to misrepresent the facts.” They also published information about nurses’ average compensation and benefits: RNs who work full-time at their Bay Area hospitals earn more than $136,000 a year (not including benefits) and receive up to eight weeks paid time off each year to use for vacation, sick time and other personal use.

As at previous walk-outs, Sutter has brought in replacement nurses, hired through agencies, who will typically take the place of the striking nurses for several days even though the protest is only planned for today.

“We are ready to go back to work tomorrow,” said Pardue-Okimoto. “Forcing us to be off work for four days is punitive and an unfair labor practice.”

On May Day nurses and Cal employees take to streets [05.01.12]
Nurses’ strike draws cheers and honking horns [09.22.11]

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...