Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Monday, April 18, 2022 @ 4:18 p.m.

Sutter Coast Nurses Strike, Are Locked Out of Work As Contract Negotiations With Sutter Enters 10th Month

Intensive Care Unit nurse, Amber Foust (far right), and her colleagues strike outside Sutter Coast Hospital on Monday. | Photo: Jessica C. Andrews


Negotiating Their First-Ever Contract with Sutter Health, Sutter Coast Nurses Push For Safer Workplace, Better Collaboration With Admin


Though their strike was only supposed to last a day, many Sutter Coast Hospital nurses will be out of work without pay for the rest of the week.

“Sutter has chosen to lock out nurses who do not cross the picket line,” said Amber Foust and Andrea Weaver, two of about 8,500 healthcare workers across the Sutter Health network who are participating in the one-day strike as contract negotiations with Sutter stretches into its 10th month.

“They’re expecting nurses to cross the picket line if they want to work for the rest of the week,” Weaver told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Monday.

Foust and Weaver and several of their colleagues stood outside on a rainy Monday morning dressed in red brandishing signs reading, “Safe Staffing Now!”, “Patients Before Profits”, and “Some Cuts Never Heal.”

Extra security was stationed at the hospital entrance. The driveway leading to the parking area near the emergency department was cordoned off.

“It’s the extra security they’ve got in place to keep an eye on us,” Weaver said.

The strike comes about a month after Sutter Health nurses held an informational picket protesting what they say is Sutter’s refusal to address their concerns surrounding staffing levels, workplace violence and pandemic readiness.

According to an April 8 news release from the California Nurses Association, Sutter Health nurses are pushing for safe staffing levels and pandemic readiness protections that require hospitals to invest in personal protective equipment stockpiles and to compile with the state’s PPE stockpile law.

Implemented in April 2021 and sponsored by CNA, the state’s PPE stockpile law requires hospitals to maintain a three-month supply of new and unexpired personal protective equipment and written procedures for determining the quantity and types of equipment used in its normal consumption.

Staffing shortages and the need for a safer working environment prompted Sutter Coast Hospital nurses to join the CNA in January 2021. Those issues, exacerbated in the COVID-19 pandemic, led local nurses to participate in contract negotiations with Sutter Health for the first time ever, ER nurse, Tiffany Dodson told the Outpost in March.

In a statement Sunday, a Sutter Health spokesman had resumed negotiations with the California Nurses Association with the involvement of a federal mediator. However, nurses hadn’t called off the planned strike.

“Work stoppages at 18 of our sites — even for a single day — requires complex and costly preparation and obligates us to make plans that our teams, patients and communities can rely on,” he said. “We notified CNA today that if the uncertainty of a strike remains this afternoon, we will staff our hospital on Monday with the contracted replacement workers. We hope the union will call off this strike so our nurses can work their normal shifts on Monday.”

Sutter Health officials said they “stand ready to continue bargaining” on Sunday.

But according to Weaver, negotiations stopped at 3 p.m. Sunday.

“Our negotiation team was ready to meet,” she said. “We were put on call all day yesterday with no word of when we were meeting and at 3:15 we got the word that Sutter had walked away from the table.”

Mario Fernandez, a labor representative with the California Nurses Association, said if Sutter doesn’t return to the bargaining table, CNA would have to “reassess” but could hold another work stoppage.

“This is the last salvo whenever we do anything like this,” he said. “Nobody wants to say, ‘Strike first, come back to the table later.’”

Fernandez said contract negotiations could include paying the nurses for the time they weren’t allowed to work.

Negotiators representing Sutter nurses were willing to go back to the bargaining table, but hadn’t heard back from Sutter, Weaver said Monday.

“Their focus has been on basically getting these strike nurses in to be trained to function at the hospital,” she said.

In a news letter, Sutter Health stated it has offered shift bonuses and has boosted its recruitment of traveling nurses and workers to staff its hospitals. The health network also states it has provided paid time off, temporary disaster pay and wage-benefit continuation programs for those able to work but who are lacking assignments.

As for personal protective equipment, Sutter Health states it has “scoured the global supply chain” to obtain more than 165 million pieces of PPE, including masks, gowns and face shields.


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