On May Day, nurses and Cal staff take to Berkeley streets

Sutter Health nurses participated in a one-day May Day strike, including outside Berkeley's Alta Bates hospital. Photo: Elizabeth Hawk

In Berkeley and across the Bay Area employees have been taking to the streets today, May Day, to ensure their voices and grievances are heard.

Nurses from the Sutter Health system began protesting outside hospitals, including Alta Bates on Ashby Avenue, at 7:00am this morning and will continue until 7:00pm. The plan was that 4,500 registered nurses across the Sutter Health system would strike in order to protest what they term the “sweeping concessions” and “outrageous demands” made by the healthcare organization. They say the dozens of service cuts being required are endangering patient care.

It is the third strike in seven months by members of the California Nurses Association over contracts that have been under negotiation for nearly a year. At a one-day walk-out in September 2011, City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who attended the rally, said the cuts already implemented by Sutter were “a big issue for Berkeley”. “We’re very worried people will die if they continue to move facilities out of Berkeley,” he said.

A child takes part in the nurses' strike and the Berkeley Morris Dancers provide some entertainment. Photo: Elizabeth Hawk

The nurses say they are being asked to make contract concessions and cuts in care despite Sutter “making over $4 billion in profits since 2007, and handing its chief executive Pat Fry at 215%  pay hike to over $4 million a year, in addition to salaries of over $1 million a year to some 20 other top executives.” Read Northern California Registered Nurses’ full statement online.

Writing about the negotiations on a regularly update blog, Sutter Health cited numbers to show that many of its nurses do not support the strike. They said the crossover percentage of nurses for Alta Bates Summit Medical Center (including 51% crossover at Summit campus in Oakland) was 35%.

“We greatly value our nurses. An RN who works full-time at a hospital with an open labor contract earns on average $136,000 a year plus receives generous health benefits and an employer-paid pension,” read the statement on the blog.

As at previous walk-outs, Sutter has brought in replacement nurses, hired through agencies, who will typically take the place of the striking nurses for several days even though the protest is only planned for today.

“The replacement agencies typically require our hospitals to pay contract nurses for multiple days of work even though the union has called a strike for just one day.  Since we do not believe it makes financial sense to pay double for our striking nurses and contract nurses, these multi-day contract requirements usually mean that striking nurses miss several days of work,” Sutter said in its statement.

Also in Berkeley, Professional and Technical employees from UC Berkeley took part in a march which began at 12 noon today.

UC Berkeley employees took part in a May Day march which began at noon. Photo: Elizabeth Hawk

Nurses’ strike draws cheers and honking horns [09.22.11]

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  • The Sharkey

    It would seem that the 3/4 page ad Sutter took out in today’s Tribune pointing out that their full-time RN’s make an average of over $110k per year and get 40 days of vacation every year (among other extremely generous benefits) was well-timed.

  • Charles_Siegel

    “today, Labor Day,”

    Labor day is in September.  Today is International Workers’ Day (also known as May Day) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Workers%27_Day

  • The Sharkey

    Correct. Partially because of the history of the day, various Occupy camps are also using today as an excuse to riot and vandalize various city centers across the country.

    Here’s a link to a live stream of trust fund anarchists trashing Oakland:

  • Charles_Siegel
  • My mistake. Have fixed. Thanks Charles.

  • Guest

    You said 40 days of vacation each year? That’s 8 weeks (5 workdays a week). Two months off per year. Is that right?

  • The Sharkey

    They’re throwing things and fighting with Police in Portland too.


  • The Sharkey

    I believe that’s what it said in the ad.
    I was shocked by it too. Not sure if it’s accurate. It seems overly generous.

  • Sandy_Green

    Rock n roll, protesters. We cowards are sitting at our computers.

  • Bill

    That may be true but is that net salary or salary + benefits and honestly $110K a year doesn’t seem that much for someone if they’re as skilled as the RN’s I’ve had the “luck” to deal with in my life.  Of course I wouldn’t want the Chief Executive assisting me after my heart attack either.

  • EBGuy

    Also brought to you by CNA:
    “In 2004, California began requiring that acute care hospitals maintain
    certain minimum ratios of nurses to patients, making it the first state
    in the nation to do so…The [study] results show that while the legislation has increased the use of
    registered nurses, the ratios have had no clear impact on the quality
    measures that are associated with nursing care.”
    more: http://www.chcf.org/publications/2009/02/assessing-the-impact-of-californias-nurse-staffing-ratios-on-hospitals-and-patient-care#ixzz1tfKEO5A1And we wonder why health care is so expensive. 


  • The Sharkey

    If I remember correctly the ad quoted the average salary + benefits as being $172k.

  • The Sharkey

    Or we just disagree with their tactics or message.
    No sense in joining a protest you don’t agree with.

  • Sandy_Green

    The peaceful protests are getting almost no coverage.
    It seem violence is what Americans respect and honor.

  • Charles_Siegel

     I have a friend who is an Occupy Oakland activist.  She helped to organize a march on April 1 (from downtown Oakland to Emeryville) which was completely nonviolent and got no press coverage. 

    The San Francisco demonstration on the same day, which did lead to violence, got lots of coverage.

    I don’t think it is because Americans respect violence.  I think it is because the media looks for sensationalism rather than real news.

  • They are getting coverage right here though :)

  • Completely_Serious

     At Whole Foods on Telegraph today, it was particularly crowded with all the striking nurses picking up snacks at the non-union corporate store run by a guy who is publicly against employer-paid health care.  Didn’t stop the strikers from picking some kombucha or a tasty deli made sammich.

  • The Sharkey

    Here’s the exact text of the ad from today’s paper (emphasis and italics as shown in ad):

    Our Valued Nurses Receive Industry-Leading Wages and Benefits

    Taking great care of our patients means taking great care of our nurses. Full-time RNs at our hospitals with open labor contracts earn on average:
    – More than $136,000 a year
    – An employer-paid pension plan worth $84,000 a year in retirement
    – Up to 40 paid days off annually
    – And most have an option of 100% employer-paid health insurance

    That’s total compensation valued at more than $172,000 per year.

    Despite generous pay and benefits we provide our nurses, the California Nurses Union demands new benefits that will increase the cost of health care for our patients – including double-digit wage increases and free health care for life. These demands would increase costs at our hospitals by tens of millions of dollars.

    Quality patient care will continue during the union’s strike.

    Unfortunately the California Nurses Union called a strike on May 1. If you or a loved one needs care, please know that we have taken steps to preserve quality patient care. We will staff our hospitals with qualified registered nurses during the strike.

    We remain committed to bringing closure to these contracts for our valued nurses, while also doing our part to make health care more affordable for our patients.

  • Bethany

    That information is totally misleading. According to our contract, Alta Bates nurses get 10 paid holidays. I’m not sure what the average is for vacation days, but most nurses I work with get 2-3 weeks vacation, pretty standard I think.

  • The Sharkey

    Thanks for the response. The “40 days vacation” thing seemed over the top. I wonder if they’re including required time off for nurses who work extremely long shifts or something?

    But boy, with that salary and pension, I don’t know if I’d strike. Sounds pretty good to me.

  • Sarah

    10 paid holidays + 2 weeks vacation (14 days) = 24 days. Three weeks vacation would put it at 31 days. Their ad says “up to 40 paid days off annually.” I don’t think it is misleading at all. 

    The salary and pension seems much more than reasonable. Especially considering the average salary in the Bay Area is significantly lower. 

  • Annie Painter

    Sorry to stoop to such a level — but not everyone in this town can afford to get their snacks at Whole Foods.

  • Annie Painter

    Also poignant: the nurses lurking down at the corner, away from cameras and obeying the 25-foot rule, who were sneaking crafty cigarettes during their picket duty. No wonder they are insisting on better employer matches for their health care premiums.

  • Annie Painter

    Thanks Bethany for sharing this information. If it does not probe too closely, could I ask if your peer group are exempt from FLSA and if, conversely, nurses are eligible for overtime pay or comp time off in lieu? The $136K figure, the implied pension contribution generosity, and even the time off numbers could be seen in a somewhat different light if that is the case.

  • Mwsacto

    Well non union Sutter Nurses don’t even get near that type of pension.