Press Release

National Day of Strikes, Pickets, Protests by Community Health Systems RNs in Four States

TODAY Call for Safer Care, Improved Standards

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Registered nurses at seven Community Health Systems hospitals in California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, will hold a national day of action with strikes, pickets, and other solidarity events today Tuesday, December 3. The protests will affect more than 1,400 RNs at the facilities.

The nurses will be protesting repeated multiple violations of federal law by CHS-affiliated hospitals and the failure of CHS executives to address widespread concerns about patient safety and cuts in patient services as well as the nurses’ efforts to with economic and workplace fairness.

Highlights of the actions will include one-day strikes at California hospitals, in Watsonville and Barstow, and a Pennsylvania hospital in Wilkes-Barre, picketing at hospitals in Massillon, Ohio and Ronceverte, West Virginia, and press conferences at hospitals in Bluefield, W.Va., and Fallbrook, Ca.

The California Nurses Association, National Nurses Organizing Committee-Ohio, NNOC-West Virginia, and Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals represent the RNs.

“It would be hard to find an employer anywhere in the U.S. that has engaged in such a widespread, systemic practice of violating the rights of its employees. In the case of CHS, their behavior shows an unconscionable disdain for patient safety as well as disrespect for registered nurses who provide the care so critical for communities where patients often have no alternative for care,” said CNA Co-President Cokie Giles.

Federal judges sanction CHS for violating RN rights

CHS, the second largest for-profit hospital chain in the U.S., has been ordered by two federal judges to stop violating nurses representation rights. Additionally, three national labor board judges have found widespread violations of federal labor law, including the retaliatory firing of a long term RN. CHS is also under investigation for further violations of federal labor law for other illegal terminations, many unilateral changes in working conditions, spying on nurses and more.

Just last week, the NLRB issued another complaint against Bluefield Regional Medical Center in Bluefield, West Virginia, on charges of spying on nurses, and other violations of RN legal rights. A hearing is set for February 27 in Bluefield.

At multiple CHS hospitals RNs are alarmed at what they see as serious safety violations as a result of unsafe staffing and the refusal of hospital officials to discuss how to secure protections for patients.

Nurses have also raised concerns about reductions of patient services, including the closure of a cardiac rehabilitation unit at Fallbrook Hospital near San Diego, layoffs, and unsafe maintenance at some facilities that, among other problems, led to a sewage leak at Bluefield.

At several facilities, CHS has simply refused to recognize the democratic rights of the RNs who have voted for union representation. At others, such as Watsonville (Ca.) Community Hospital, officials have rejected proposals to improve staffing and are demanding major reductions in nurses’ pay and health coverage.

“I believe that my patients deserve to be treated in a safe environment with safe staffing,” says Pat Brakefield, a Senior Mental Health RN at Affinity in Ohio where RNs will picket Tuesday. “This is nothing more than I would want for my own family member.”

“CHS consistently underestimates Barstow RNs,” says Mike Ziemer, intensive care unit RN at Barstow (Ca.) Community Hospital where RNs will strike on Tuesday. “Their repeated unfair labor practices are symptomatic of the contemptuous attitude they have taken in bargaining since we made that democratic decision. No one wants a strike, but have no choice but to take a stand.”

“Since the union election, RNs have made some improvements in staffing. However, there is still a lot of work to be done, and CHS refuses to respect nurses and bargain with us,” says Beverly Hubbard, RN who works in the Cath Lab at Greenbrier Valley (W. Va.) Medical Center. We will be letting the community know about the patient care conditions at the hospital on December 3. Please join us in our fight to improve patient care at GVMC.”

Schedule of Actions – Today, Tuesday, December 3:

  • One-day strike. Barstow Community Hospital, 820 East Mountain View St., Barstow, Ca,, beginning 7 a.m.
  • One-day strike. Watsonville Community Hospital, 75 Nielson St., Watsonville, Watsonville, Ca., beginning at 6:45 a.m.
  • One-day strike. Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, 575 N. River St., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
  • Picketing. Affinity Medical Center, 875 8th St. NE, Massillon, Oh., from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Picketing. Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, picket at 122 Maplewood Ave., Ronceverte, W.Va., from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Press conference. Bluefield Regional Medical Center, 510 Maryland Ave., Bluefield, W. Va., at 4 p.m.
  • Press conference. Fallbrook Hospital, 624 E. Elder St., Fallbrook, Ca., at 1 p.m.

Over the past five years, CHS reported over $1.5 billion in profits to the Securities and Exchange Commission. CHS CEO Wayne Smith piled up $21.5 million in total compensation in 2011, according to the AFL-CIO Executive Pay Watch project.