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RNs Blast Court Ruling – Pledge to Seek Legal, Other Actions To Defend Nurses’ Right to Advocate

Press Release Press Release, 6/18/10

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For Immediate Release
June 18, 2010

University of California registered nurses, joined by leaders of their organization from across California and the nation today condemned the latest ruling by a San Francisco court to enjoin registered nurses from striking over a current contract re-opener as a dangerous infringement on democratic rights and an encouragement to hospital officials to continue to ignore pervasive safety problems in UC hospitals.

“Today’s decision will not be the last word. We will consider a variety of legal responses and a full range of collective actions to defend the right of our members to continue to advocate for our patients,” said Geri Jenkins, RN, a co-president of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United and a UC San Diego nurse.

“This ruling does nothing to address the serious erosion of care standards in UC hospitals, instead seeking to punish and silence the nurses, the canaries in the coal mine, who have been prodding the University for months to correct appalling problems that put patients at risk,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins noted that nurses from around the nation have been watching the California fight over their collective patient advocacy rights. UC RNs were joined today in the courtroom by nurse leaders from Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Texas. 

The biggest victims of the ruling, said Jenkins, are UC patients, already enduring eroding care conditions in UC hospitals while its RNs are blocked by the collusion of the University, the Schwarzenegger administration, whose Public Employment Relations Board sought the injunction, and now the courts, from exercising the right to strike after months of prodding the hospitals to improve care.

Today’s decision was decided on extremely narrow, bureaucratic, and technical grounds, said Jenkins, even while the court was affirming  the RNs’ ultimate right to strike.

 By exploiting their “University” label, the UC hospitals, which act like private hospital corporations in much the same manner as other private hospitals in California, the UC system maintains an unfair business advantage over their private hospital competition, said Jenkins.

This decision affirms the complicity of the state agencies and at least one court to limit the right of nurses to use the collective action of the right to strike to press for improved patient care conditions which has assisted the RNs in achieving significant gains for patients in private hospitals, Jenkins said.

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