Thousands of Stanford, Packard Children’s nurses begin strike to demand for better staffing, mental health support
About 5,000 Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital nurses went on strike Monday morning to demand for hospital officials to reach a new contract, seeking better staffing and mental help support.
The strike marks the first for Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA) — the union that represents nurses at Stanford and Packard — in more than 20 years and comes after negotiations with Stanford management stalled after the nurses’ labor contracts, covering about 5,000 nurses , expired Mar. 31. Nurses said that Stanford management failed to agree to terms that would inadequately address staff shortages, support patient care and create sustainable nursing careers.
About 93 percent of eligible nurses authorized the strike, which CRONA will use to set up a picket line and hold a 9 am Monday press conference outside Stanford Hospital along Welch Road at Pasteur Drive, according to a statement from the union.
“As one of the nation’s top healthcare systems, Stanford and Packard have an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and work with nurses to solve the burnout and exhaustion that is driving many of us to reconsider our jobs and our profession. We’ve been disappointed by hospital administrators’ consistent refusal to acknowledge the reality of understaffing: constant requests for overtime, little time for rest with our families, and insufficient support for mental health,” said Colleen Borges, President of CRONA and a pediatric oncology nurse at Packard Children’s Hospital.
“A strike has always been the last resort for CRONA nurses, but we are prepared to stand strong and make sacrifices today for the transformative changes that the nursing profession needs,” she said. “We hope to get back to work quickly under fair contracts that acknowledge nurses’ contributions and support excellent patient care.”
Stanford and Lucile Packard have scheduled a formal bargaining session Tuesdays with their nurses. CRONA gave notice of intention to strike April 13. The union has reiterated its intention of continuing contract negotiations with management.
Stanford nurses are joining a growing movement of other US healthcare workers who have bemoaned the lack of staffing, pay, benefits and quality of life that came to a head during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, 8,000 nurses at 18 Sutter Health facilities staged a one-day strike to call for better staffing after working under an expired contract for 10 months. Health care strikes have also taken place in New York, Massachusetts, Oregon, Alabama and Montana. Last November, Kaiser narrowly averted a strike of 50,000 healthcare workers.
Nurses at UCLA Medical Center and UCSF Medical Center are planning to hold press conferences and rallies Wednesday to call on the University of California to address staffing shortages and patient safety, according to the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) in a Monday statement.
“Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, nurses have been outraged as we have watched our hospitals fail to provide the basic resources to protect us, such as personal protective equipment and adequate RN staffing,” said David Yamada, a registered nurse at UCLA. “For the past two years, management has publicly called us heroes while at the same time failing to adequately address the ongoing needs of the frontline staff and continuously violating our contract protections.”
Nurses say profits have spiked at Stanford and other health systems, even during the ongoing pandemic. According to the university’s 2021 annual report, revenues at the two hospitals exceeded expenses by $845 million, compared with $107 million in 2020 — although that was partially due to one-time federal relief grants.
There is also public outcry at the hospitals’ decision to withdraw health benefits for striking Stanford nurses. An online petition by CRONA demanding the hospital to rescind the decision has gotten nearly 30,000 signatures and was delivered Friday to Stanford and Packard CEOs, David Entwistle and Paul King, the striking nurses said.
In an e-mail Sunday evening, hospital representatives updated a Friday statement, saying the strike is “a serious event that is disruptive to our patients, families, and colleagues” and saying that it will continue trying to reach a contract, but would only pay for striking staff health coverage through COBRA: “Our hospitals’ employer- paid premiums for health benefits are only provided to employees who are actively engaged in working for the hospitals. This standard practice is not unique to our hospitals and applies to any of our employees who are not working, are on unpaid status, and are not on an approved leave.”
“We have worked diligently to reach a mutually acceptable contract agreement and have made meaningful progress at the bargaining table so far,” said Stanford Health Care chief nurse executive and vice president of patient care services Dale Beatty and Stanford Children’s Health senior vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer Jesus Cepero.
“We’ve offered an enriched comprehensive proposal that features only enhancements for our nurses, including wage increases that will keep our nurses among the highest paid nurses in the nation, greater retention bonuses in the first year, funds to help repay loans incurred while seeking a nursing degree, increased access to paid time off for new nurses, and a new program for retention-incentive payments for our nurses working in units with higher vacancy rates and hard-to-fill positions.”