Citing patient safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, union members at Oakland, Calif.-based Alameda Health System are planning a joint five-day strike, according to hospital and union statements.
The strike is slated to start Oct.7 and end Oct. 12. It involves three unions — Service Employees International Union 1021, California Nurses Association and International Longshoremen and Warehouse Workers 6.
Union members say they have concerns about understaffing as well as health and safety issues for patients and workers. They also allege bad-faith bargaining and unfair labor practices.
“Our patients are some of the most marginalized people in our communities and we have an obligation to stand up for them and to demand that the county provide us the tools we need to keep ourselves safe, our patients safe, and our communities safe,” Mawata Kamara, a registered nurse at the health system’s San Leandro (Calif.) Hospital and a member of the CNA board of directors, said in a news release. “We do not take lightly the decision to strike during a pandemic, but we feel we have no choice if we are going to get the changes we need to provide the very best care for our patients during this critical time.”
Highland Hospital emergency room nurse John Pearson said in the news release: “We have been coming to AHS management for years, telling them about what our patients need, and they’ve been failing to provide it. I’m afraid of what will happen to our patients if we don’t strike.”
Alameda Health System is a safety-net public health system that includes community-based hospitals Alameda (Calif.) Hospital and San Leandro Hospital. The system also includes Oakland-based Highland Hospital, a regional trauma center and teaching hospital; John George Psychiatric Hospital, an acute and emergency care facility in San Leandro; Fairmont Hospital, an acute rehabilitation hospital and skilled nursing facility in San Leandro; and four neighborhood-based community wellness centers in Oakland, Newark and Hayward, Calif.
Hospital officials expressed disappointment about the unions’ plan to strike, particularly during the pandemic.
“We believe the better path is to continue to work toward a fair contract at the bargaining table,” the health system said in a statement shared with Becker’s Hospital Review.
The health system said it will try to keep as many of its hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and wellness centers open as possible in the event of a walkout.
“In the interest of making progress in contract negotiations, Alameda Health System agreed to engage an external negotiator to assist in our talks with SEIU 1021 and we had already enlisted a mediator to support contract talks with CNA for represented nurses at San Leandro and Alameda hospitals,” the statement added. “A strike would do nothing to advance the community’s interests. We urge the unions to instead work with us at the bargaining table and participate in collaborative discussions regarding the financial and governance models that would support the long-term viability of this essential healthcare system.”
Together, the unions represent thousands of healthcare workers across Alameda Health System, including nurses, housekeepers, technicians, food service workers and others.
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