Nurses look forward after year of achievements – new year begins with national day of action for safe staffing
Following a year of major contract gains across the country, nurses are pledging to step up actions to demand the hospital industry end their profession’s staffing crisis by providing safe numbers of nurses to care for patients.
The nationwide protests in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, and Texas will highlight the ongoing “quad-demic” fueled by the hospital industry’s prioritization of money over patient care.
“Nurses have demonstrated that with concerted action, we can make a qualitative difference in the lives, health, and safety of our patients, our communities, and our members,” said National Nurses United (NNU) President Deborah Burger, RN. “We have a proud record to build on.”
In 2022 alone, the NNU-affiliated California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC) conducted multiple strikes and hundreds of other workplace protests, pickets, press conferences, candlelight vigils, marches on the CEO, and shift-change actions from California to Maine.
As a result of these steady actions, the union won stellar new contracts, and first contracts for newly organized union shops, for some 75,000 nurses and other health care workers at 120 facilities nationwide. Among them were some of the largest hospital chains in the United States, including Kaiser Permanente, the University of California, Sutter Health, HCA, and Tenet.
Nurses won significant steps forward on workplace safety protections, infectious disease control measures, workplace violence prevention plans, protection or improvement of health coverage and retirement security, increased workplace diversity and equity provisions, significant economic gains to help retain experienced RNs and recruit new nurses, depending on individual settlements and local priorities.
Among the landmark gains (partial list):
Kaiser Permanente, 22 facilities: ensuring nurses get the highest level of personal protective equipment (PPE), including the requirement to maintain a three-month stockpile of PPE and screening for infectious disease, expansion of workplace violence prevention plans to all Kaiser sites, 2,000 new RN and nurse practitioner positions to address chronic short staffing, creation of a new regional Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee to address systemic racism in the system, and pay increases of up to 22 percent with ratification bonuses and other gains.
“With this new contract, we will be able to recruit new nurses, retain experienced RNs, and most importantly, provide our patients with improved care. For the first time, our contract includes equity and inclusion provisions and a commitment to a workplace free from racism and discrimination.” —CNA President Cathy Kennedy, RN at Kaiser.
Sutter Health, 16 facilities: new workplace violence language to ensure the hospitals maintain sufficient security systems and violence and prevention plans, maintenance of a three-month stockpile of PPE and presumptive eligibility for workplace compensation during a state declared pandemic or epidemic, improved meal and break and call off language and assurance travelers get shift cancellations first, up to 29 percent pay increases with additional gains for seniority, shift differentials, charge nurse assignments, and tuition reimbursement.
“Our CPMC bargaining team is very proud of the improvements we were able to achieve in bargaining this contract. We could not have done it alone. The ongoing unity and determination of nurses across the Sutter system has made this victory possible.” —Madelene Zamora, California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco
University of California, 10 facilities: eight weeks of fully paid family care and bonding leave; no takeaways of health care, pension, and other benefits; protection for union rights and potential subcontracting of RN work; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion provisions; pay increases of up to 28 percent depending on the campus to reduce system disparities with additional equity increases for the lowest paid hospitals; increased on-call pay, plus a ratification bonus of up to $3,000.
“This agreement recognizes and rewards registered nurses for our service and commitment to our patients and communities across the UC system, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.” —Dahlia Tayag, RN at UC San Diego
Tenet Health, nine facilities: guaranteed provision of proper PPE and Covid testing for nurses, improved isolation of Covid patients, wage increases of up to 21 percent, safeguards on the nurses’ health coverage and retirement plan.
“We want our patients and the communities we serve throughout California to know that our advocacy for them doesn’t stop with a signed contract. We are celebrating this milestone today and committed to advocating for quality care tomorrow and every day.” —Liz Membel, medical surgical RN, at Doctors Hospital of Manteca
Steward Health Care, three South Florida facilities: new resolution process for staffing disputes, protection against unsafe assignments, new Infectious Disease Task Force, new extended sick leave bank, paid education leave, pay increases of up to 27 percent.
“We’re proud of the resulting contract. Through our collective strength and faith in each other, the nurses won a contract that prioritizes patient care, so this is a victory for our patients and our community.”—Chrystel Willis, RN at Florida Medical Center
HCA, two facilities: pledge to hire 34 more full-time RNs to provide meal and rest breaks for nurses, requiring hospitals to follow the strictest standards of federal, state, and local infectious disease control and a commitment to maintain the highest level of PPE, strengthened training program for newly hired RNs, wage increases of up to 29 percent.
“We believe that, with the gains made in this contract, we will be able to better recruit and retain experienced nurses and therefore provide high-quality care to our communities.” —Lydia Vasovich Gmerek, RN on the bargaining team, Good Samaritan Hospital, San Jose, Calif.
Maine Medical Center, first contract at Maine’s largest hospital: new patient advocacy committees to review safety and staffing standards, an end to the reviled mandatory rotating-shift policy often shifting nurses between days and nights, guaranteed meal and rest breaks, new protections against unsafe assignments, pay increases of up to 15 percent.
“We have made tremendous gains in patient safety protections and workplace improvements and have won raises that will really help us recruit and retain the nurses needed to care for our community.” —Emily Wilder, cardiac ICU RN and bargaining team member at Maine Medical Center
Long Beach Memorial: New restrictions on assignment of nurses to areas where they lack specialty competency and experience, strengthened training and assignment protections for new nurses, additional protections for advocacy for safer patient care, wage increases of up to 29 percent.
“We addressed staffing recruitment and retention by negotiating much needed and deserved wage increases, and secured patient safety language. This contract gives a solid foundation to work with, to teach, and to ultimately improve the lives of our staff and patients.” —Amy Wolk, RN, outpatient surgical center unit, Long Beach Memorial
Providence Saint John’s Health Center, Santa Monica: Guaranteed access to highest level of PPE, new workplace violence prevention language with safety committee of union RNs to make recommendations, tuition reimbursement for continuing education, pay increases up to 24 percent.
The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the nation with 100,000 members in more than 200 facilities throughout California and nearly 225,000 RNs nationwide.