I'm confused too. I lived in CA 1995-1997 and while there was a 911 dispatcher / operator. One of the things that I clearly remember was that even though we were all in a mandated civil servent union, we were under no circumstances permitted to go on strike - if we did, we were fired. We even had to sign papers that we understood and agreed to this when we were hired. I had no problems signing the papers because it only made sense to me -- 911 staff is needed 24/7 with no interuptions in service.
How is it that nursing staff is not under the same obligation? Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that increasing patient ratios is OK, but in reality, when the nurses are on strike, the patients don't have coverage either.
I know it's a sticky situation, the nurses are trying to ensure that the patients are properly being taken care of, and historically, strikes get action from the employers. However, IMHO, I think this is something that would better be addressed though the legislature (government regs on ratios) and public opinion (getting on TV news, etc.)
And as to public opinion -- striking nurses looks so BAD, BAD, BAAAAADDDD to the general public. To be honest, until I started school, even I couldn't understand why there was "so many nurses" needed at the hosp., clinic, etc. I had NO IDEA what all was required for patient care, documentation, etc. I can just imagine what the general population is thinking when they hear "nurses are striking over ratio changes from 1:4 to 1:5". I just bet they're saying "aw... boo, hoo, hoo.... those overpaid, whiney, spoiled nurses"..... that is NOT the impression that we want, but due to lack of knowledge, that IS the impression people will / do have.
Think about it, (for currently practicing nurses) how many times have you heard statements such as "anybody can do you you're doing" or any of the various comments you can read in some of the "vent" thread on AllNurses.com? People just don't know. And as a previous "general population" myself, the attitudes and comments heard by me from doctors about nurses just reinforces the opinion that 1) anybody can be a nurse 2) nurses don't do much other than take your blood, bring you water, and sit at the desk chatting on the phone (not my opinion, these are comments that I've actually heard come out of doctor's mouths).
If the head of the nursing union there, or a group of say charge nurses were to approach the local news and ask for a sit down interview or even a discussion panel, I bet the news would jump at it. Public opinion carries alot of weight both in politics (getting the legislation) and in business (getting administration / management to back down).