"Not such a good Friday," said Dori Stevens, chief nursing officer at Sutter Delta. "We are still considering all options, but at this point we have to be prepared for the strike, and we are."
The planned 10-day walkout is twice as long as the previous strike held in December, and will coincide with nine other Sutter Health hospitals throughout Northern California. According to Stevens, the issues this time around involve developing a master contract, and the California Nurses Association's (CNA) interest in obtaining regional organizing rights.
A master contract would provide for the same contract language across the board at all the Sutter facilities. Organizing rights for the union would allow the CNA to require all nurses who work at Sutter locations to join the union. All the registered nurses currently working at Sutter Delta are members of the CNA.
"Those are the two issues that are affecting the strike this time," said Stevens, who estimates the strike will cost close to $1 million in wages and accommodations for 73 replacement nurses. "Every time (the strike) happens, it takes away energy from all of us. Patient care is what we are here for, to work together as a team and to make things better and safer for everyone."
Sutter Delta nurse Cynthia Cothbertson said her reasons for walking out have more to do with patient care and retirement benefits than master contracts and organizing rights.
"I'm concerned about my retirement package, but I'm really more worried about the patient-nurse ratios," said Cothbertson. "If I had a family member here in this hospital, I wouldn't want that nurse to have three other patients."
But Dee (who asked that her last name be withheld), a full-time nurse at Sutter Delta, said that she plans to report for work as usual for just that reason.
"Here we are on round three (of the strike) and I have to say I'm not so clear anymore what the strike is all about," she said. "At this point it just seems to be greed, and in light of the current economic situation, I feel like 'how dare we go out on strike.' And I'll tell you something else as well: I believe the public is saying the same thing. I will cross the line; I plan on taking care of my patients. That's my responsibility."
As for the chances of a last-minute strike reprieve, Stevens agreed that it was highly unlikely, but conceded that anything was possible. "I'm going to remain hopefully optimistic; you never know," she said. "After all, it is the season of miracles."