Thousands of nurses are expected to stop striking after they reached a tentative agreement on Friday night for a new contract with Stanford Hospital and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.
After days of negotiations, the nurses’ union announced that it had won a 7% pay rise this year, as well as a 5% increase from the beginning of next April, another increase starting in April 2024 and significant increases to nurses’ retirement benefits. Union members still have to vote over the weekend on whether to approve the deal.
Hospitals have also guaranteed an additional week of pre-scheduled vacation for all nurses from 2024.
Union leaders had cited fatigue and burnout among thousands of healthcare workers in the region as grounds for strike action, but has wavered in recent days after discovering hospitals have the legal capacity to cancel health benefits nurses who participated.
At its peak, the strike drew nearly 5,000 nurses, drawing the attention of lawmakers and a Friday visit from Sen. Alex Padilla.
Solidarity today with @CRONAnurses who heroically put their lives on the line every day to serve their community. Even during the worst days of the pandemic, they showed up for us. Nurses really are real-life superheroes. pic.twitter.com/cAzfso0hds
— Senator Alex Padilla (@SenAlexPadilla) April 30, 2022
But union leaders admitted in interviews with this news agency that they were unaware of the legal right of Stanford and Packard to cancel health benefits for striking nurses.
“It feels like a slap in the face,” Packard bedside nurse Jessica Butler, who is pregnant and needs medical attention, said in an interview Friday. “They say they like us, but that shows that’s not true.”
In a statement, Stanford Health Care said it was “national standard practice” to offer benefits only to actively working employees.
To address labor shortages, Stanford Hospital sought traveling nurses through an employment agencyoffering a salary of $13,000 a week, plus free food, housing, and transportation, to nurses who agreed to come from other areas and cross the hospital picket line.
The strike was the latest pay dispute for Bay Area healthcare workers who say they have been scattered working long hours, skipping vacations and facing a wave of death and suffering during the coronavirus pandemic .
Many workers have given up on the ground, leaving hospitals short-staffed and struggling to meet legal nurse-patient ratios.
Last Monday, 8,000 Northern California nurses staged a one-day strike at 18 Sutter Health facilities. Recent health care strikes have also taken place in Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, Montana and Alabama.