4,000 brave women and men, RNs from the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, are spending this week on the picket lines outside of Sutter Health Hospitals throughout Northern California, on a 10-day strike over patient care issues. This is an important strike for a re-energized American labor movement and a key moment for the nation's battle for quality healthcare.
This is a long strike for any worker, but one that turns on the most basic issues of nursing and patient safety. Sutter Health is, even by HMO standards, an outlier in their push to cut corners on patient care in order to bump up corporate profits. You can't argue with their success on either count. In 2006, Sutter reported record profits of $587 million. Much of those profits come from routinely understaffing their hospital units by denying meal and rest breaks to nurses. As a practical matter, what this means is that if a nurse, in the midst of a 12-hour shift, decides to take her lunch break...then her patients lose coverage.
Hasn't every nurse faced that ethical dilemma? Grab a sandwich or make sure my sick patients are cared for? Especially for nurses, who define our work as "patient advocacy?" And, under California's landmark staffing law, it's no longer legal.
That's why these nurses had to walk out and make a personal sacrifice for the good of their patients and their profession.
Sutter's response? To embark on a campaign of harassment, intimidation, and lies. Sutter has threatened to fire strikers, cut off health benefits, has posted guards at nursing stations to glare at RNs, and has taken to regularly demonizing its own nurses in the press.
The good news? Sutter foolishly picked a fight with a group of (mostly) women who are not easily intimidated...especially by some corporate hack who have shown they don't care about patient care.
The better news? This strike affirms the relevance of America's labor movement to the key questions our country is undergoing. This strike has been marked by deep public support and sympathy, with Sutter Health's behavior roundly criticized by elected officials, the public, and the news media. High-profile strikes like this that win over the public make it easier for other groups of workers to stand up for their own rights. It's worth noting that the recent increase in the numbers of unionized workers has largely come from the ranks of healthcare workers--and that CNA/NNOC is the nation's fastest-growing union.
And the best news? The nurses of Sutter Health are demonstrating the way forward in our country's struggle for guaranteed healthcare. A major reason our health system is so dysfunctional is that corporations like Sutter Health have rigged the system and treat patients as profit-makers, not as human beings. If we can win patient safety advances at Sutter, we can win them across the country--especially if we inspire the nation's nurses to continue taking their patient advocacy from the bedside to the statehouse and even to the streets.
If these nurses inspire you, why not call the CEO of Sutter, Pat Fry at 916 286 6752 and tell him it's time to settle with the nurses!
For more on the Sutter fight and ongoing news, go to: www.calnurses.org
Jun 26, '08
Thank you, Chico David RN.
Last edit by Colfax on Jul 10, '08
: Reason: mistaken identity
Jul 2, '08
Last edit by Colfax on Jul 11, '08