Wednesday, June 27, 2001
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nurses picket at Northern Nevada hospital
Workers walk out to protest staffing levels
By SANDRA CHEREB
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
RENO -- Nurses picketed Washoe Medical Center on Tuesday to protest allegations of unfair labor practices and complain about what they call unsafe staffing levels at Northern Nevada's largest hospital.
Washoe Medical's administrators said the walkout did not disrupt the 529-bed hospital, which hired 70 replacement nurses for the striking workers.
"Everything is going very smoothly," said Judy Watland, vice president and chief nursing officer.
The 24-hour protest was the latest development in a labor dispute that began when nurses voted in July 1999 to be represented by Operating Engineers Local 3.
After 16 months of bargaining, contract negotiations broke down in March and no talks have been held since.
Both sides claim they are willing to resume talks and blame the other for the stalemate that led to Tuesday's walkout by nurses in six of the hospital's 21 nursing units -- cardiac intensive care, emergency room, intensive care nursery, MRI, neurology and telemetry.
Hospital officials said the next move was the union's after nurses rejected their final offer in March.
"They didn't give us any kind of counter proposal to consider," Watland said.
"We have not received any request to go back to the bargaining table," said Lynn Atcheson, the hospital's vice president of communications.
Union director Bill Freitas disagreed.
"The fact is, they told us across the table that we have no reason to meet anymore; it's over," he said.
Carin Franklin, union organizer and a registered nurse, said nurses overwhelmingly rejected the hospital's last contract offer because it did not involve nurses in setting staffing levels.