An affiliate union of National Nurses United, the nation's largest union of registered nurses, participated in the one-day walkout on Monday over concerns about staffing and safety. Photo courtesy National Nurses United
April 18 (UPI) -- Thousands of nurses and healthcare workers in Northern California walked away from their jobs for one day on Monday to call attention to concerns they have about safety and staffing as COVID-19 nears an endemic stage in the United States.
About 8,000 nurses and health workers employed by Sutter Health at more than a dozen sites participated in Monday's labor walkout, which was scheduled to last from 7 a.m. Monday to 7 a.m. Tuesday.
The Nurses Association, an affiliate of National Nurses United and the Caregivers and Healthcare Employees Union, announced the strike 10 days ago and it was nearly unanimously approved by union members.
The strike stems back to failed negotiations last year for a new contract to address key concerns -- including staffing shortages, lack of transparency about personal protective equipment and other health policies related to COVID-19.
"We are striking because Sutter is not transparent about the stockpile of PPE supplies and contract tracing," Renee Waters, a trauma neuro intensive care registered nurse with 26 years experience, said in a statement. "They resist having nurses directly involved in planning and implementation of polices that affect all of us during a pandemic. We must address these issues and more.
"Nurses are fighting back against Sutter putting profits before patients and healthcare workers."
"We see no other option," registered nurse Amy Erb, who works at California Pace Medical Center, said in a statement. "Hospital administrators continue to ignore us. We have a moral obligation to advocate for our patients. We advocate for them at the bedside, at the bargaining table, and if we have to, on the strike line."
Sutter Health said before the walkout that it offered the nurses competitive wages and COVID-19 protections and resumed negotiations.
"Despite resuming negotiations with the involvement of a federal mediator, the California Nurses Association has refused to call off their strike," the company said according to KCRA-TV.
"Given the uncertainty of a looming strike ... we will staff our hospitals on Monday with the contracted replacement workers where needed. We hope the CNA union will call off this strike so our nurses can return to work."
National Nurses United is the nation's largest union of registered nurses, with 175,000 members.
Last fall, about 20,000 nurses and health workers participated in a "sympathy strike" to support a new contract for Kaiser Permanente engineers.