Hospital Strikers Get Support From Other Unions
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ More than 9,000 striking workers at 26 northern California hospitals were joined on picket lines by nearly 1,000 workers from other unions Thursday as tensions increased in the labor standoff.
One picketer was arrested in Oakland for assaulting a police officer, and frustrations grew over the lack of progress on the fourth day of the strike by Local 250 of the Hospital and Institutional Workers against the Kaiser Permanente health care system.
At least four strikers have been arrested since the strike began against the Kaiser system, which treats 2 million health plan enrollees.
More than 100 unions have sent telegrams to Kaiser advising them that if a quick settlement isn’t reached with hospital workers they may advise union members to drop Kaiser as a health plan, said union spokesman Jeff Schrader.
Two unions representing operating engineers and carpenters issued notices that they may join the strike officially if a settlement is not reached in 10 days, Schrader said.
Kaiser flew in 30 nursing supervisors from Southern California hospitals to fill in for nurses honoring picket lines, said Kaiser spokesman Dan Danzig.
″Staffing by registered nurses, who aren’t officially on strike, has continued to increase,″ Danzig said. ″At most locations, 80 to 100 percent of the registered nurses are working.″
All 52 members of the regular nursing staff at the Santa Clara facility went to work, plus an additional three volunteers, said hospital spokesman Denise Clarke. The attendance followed a sparse showing Wednesday when about half the hospital’s nurse refused to cross picket lines.
The union, however, offered a different view.
″Our estimates from the California Nursing Association are that 75 percent of the nurses are out overall, and about 95 percent are out in some locations,″ said Schrader.
The union represents pharmacists, clerical and housekeeping employees, licensed vocational nurses, ward clerks, X-ray and electrocardiogram technicians, and nursing assistants.
No talks have been held since the union walked out over a proposed wage freeze and a two-tiered wage system, and no new talks have been scheduled.
″It seems to be a standoff at this point,″ Danzig said. ″The union has raised what we feel are philosophic questions and have not focused on the details of our proposal.
″We still feel strongly that this is a fair approach to rectifying an important competitive issue,″ he said. ″None of the people on strike today is affected by the two tier system, only new employees.″
Kaiser hospitals reported about 75 percent of normal activity, Danzig said, but in many cases patients seeking non-emergency treatment were asked to postpone appointments.
Emergency treatment has not been affected, he said, although the hospitals were prepared to transfer patients to other hospitals if emergency rooms become too busy.