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Children’s Hospital Oakland nurses back at work today

on May 10, 2011

Children’s Hospital Oakland’s nurses headed back to work today after five days on the picket line with no new contract agreements. Bargaining talks with hospital administrators are expected to resume although no dates have been set yet.

The strike, spurred by proposed changes to nurses’ health benefits, was the second in a protracted, year-long contract negotiation process.  “We feel like we had a very strong strike,” said Wendy Bloom, who has been a nurse at Children’s Hospital for 24 years.  “But we’re anxious to get back to the table and get an agreement.”

Bloom said the nurses had a lot of community and political support from other unions, political leaders like California Senator Loni Hancock, who represents Oakland, and even from their patients.  “I think a lot of families believe in what we do and think we deserve good wages and a good agreement.  They know its hard work,” she said.

The hospital wants nurses to accept a new healthcare plan that would have them pay up to $4,000 per year to bring their kids to Children’s Hospital for care. Hospital administrators are still offering a fully-funded healthcare option with Kaiser Permanente as the insurer — the plan that is already available to the hospital’s other employees — but nurses’ children would not be able to receive care at Children’s Hospital.

The hospital says that the concessions are necessary for the hospital’s fiscal viability, a claim which the nurses deny.  The nurses also want to keep guaranteed weekends off for nurses with over 20 years of experience.

The settlement the nurses negotiate will likely impact the contracts other Bay Area nurses will be able to get at other hospitals, so Bloom said the nurses are taking a hard line against concessions. “We’re standing strong in our position,” she said.

There are no bargaining talks scheduled yet, so the nurses will continue operating in the same contract limbo they’ve been in since their contract ended last July. “We do look forward to scheduling the next session to work this out,” said Erin Goldsmith, a Children’s Hospital spokesperson.

Bloom said the hospital has not been responsive to their requests for a meeting.  “We put it out to them that we’re available and I don’t know what more we can do.”


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