Nurses and other healthcare workers across the country are rising in a growing wave of strikes and protests over understaffing, lack of essential supplies, grueling workloads and the erosion of their standard of living by the sharp rise in inflation.
Conditions for healthcare workers around the world have been dramatically worsened by the ruling class’s response to the pandemic. Many are leaving the profession, further aggravating the crisis. According to a March 24 report in Healthcare IT News, 90% of American nurses are considering leaving the profession.
Not only do nurses have to manage inhuman levels of stress on the job, but they also face criminal prosecution as they struggle to perform their duties safely under impossible conditions. The case of RaDonda Vaught, who was arrested after a fatal medication error, met with a massive mobilization of nurses who were able to save her from having to serve a prison sentence. But nurses continue to be victimized, as can be seen in the case of Michelle Heughins and more than 100 nursing home workers in Ohio.
The growing struggles of healthcare workers are producing a direct collision with pro-corporate unions, which have done nothing to oppose these conditions and are instead working to suppress and block opposition. Nurses unions instead seek to promote inadequate legislation, such as national nurse-patient ratios, Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill and workplace violence legislation will do nothing to address critical issues for health care workers across the country.
Nurses in the United States have taken an important step by forming a national steering committee to create grassroots committees in every hospital and health care facility to combat the victimization of medical workers. To find out more and form a grassroots committee in your hospital or workplace, please submit your information here and a member of the steering committee will contact you.
Below is a selection of the main developments in the United States.
The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) announced Thursday afternoon a new tentative agreement for 1,600 nurses at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. While the union has been saying loud and clear that this is a “NURSE VICTORY”, the reality is that this is a victory for the ONA, which now has the chance to avoid a strike, scheduled for July 11.
As of this writing, the actual contract has yet to be sent to base members. On social media, ONA vice-president Jessica Lobell confirmed that the contract signing bonus had been removed in the final version of the tentative agreement.
Lobell also signaled that there would be no other major gains for nurses, while simultaneously trying to lessen the need for a strike, saying, “I can’t stress enough that we won’t get not everything we want in this round, whether we strike or not. .”
At Seton Medical Center in Daly City, 300 nurses went on a two-day strike on June 22-23. The Seton nurses have been in contract negotiations since December 2021, and the nurses told WSWS reporters they were working without basic supplies, such as fresh produce. sheets, bath wipes and diapers. Nurses also said they are often forced to work near broken equipment, such as elevators and CT scanners.
Staffing is inadequate, with nurses reporting that they are outside of legally mandated state ratios on a daily basis and are additionally asked to perform the duties of other workers such as transporters and janitors to cover shortages. These intolerable conditions have led about 80 nurses to leave the hospital over the past two years.
June 18 also marked two months since a one-day strike by about 8,000 nurses at 15 Sutter Health facilities in the region. The nurses were then locked out for a further five days following the strike by hospital administrators and have now been working without a contract for a full year. The California Nurses Association (CNA) was forced to call a strike after a nearly unanimous vote to authorize a strike in March. The hospital’s contract proposal included a pitiful 2% annual salary increase and failed to address nurses’ concerns about insufficient staffing and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Newark, New Jersey
More than 300 nurses, respiratory therapists, X-ray technicians and other workers have returned to work at Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey, after a nearly four-and-a-half-week strike. The Jersey Nurses Economic Security Organization (JNESO) used totally undemocratic means to end the strike and impose an austerity contract on the workers.
Under the agreement, workers will receive annual increases of just 3%, less than half the current rate of inflation. Another cruel aspect of the contract is that these workers were saddled with a health insurance plan with a high copayment and a $5,700 deductible.
From the start, JNESO focused its efforts on isolating the strike by conducting closed-door negotiations with management under the auspices of a federal mediator. The union has never paid a dime in strike pay, never called on workers from other Prime Healthcare-owned hospitals or even workers from other hospitals in Newark to support Saint Michael’s workers.
Twin Towns, Minnesota
A month has passed since the expiry of the contracts for 12,500 nurses in the Minneapolis-St. Metropolitan area of Paul. The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) has called only an information picket and remains silent on the status of contract negotiations.
Additionally, the contracts of some 2,500 nurses at Essentia and St. Luke’s Hospitals expired on June 30. Nurses at two other smaller regional hospitals in Moose Lake and Hastings also have contracts that recently expired, bringing the total number of nurses working without contracts in the Twin Cities area to 15,000. not even called a strike vote yet, calling instead for limited “information pickets” to let workers vent.
The MP is also working to keep the opposition led safely behind the Democratic Party. The “Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act,” which has stalled in the state legislature, does not even address staffing ratios, but only establishes state-controlled “staffing committees” , who will do nothing to address the conditions nurses face.
San Diego, California
At Palomar Health in San Diego, 3,000 nurses and healthcare workers – who had voted 96% to strike – had their strike called off at the last minute by CNA and the Caregivers and Healthcare Employees Union (CHEU). They announced a sold-out tentative deal and rushed a vote, leaving workers little to no time to fully review the contract.
The union boasts of ‘strong’ health and safety ‘language’, the establishment of ‘committees’ where ‘RNs and caregivers meet with management to address patient concerns’. Creating these committees will do nothing to address the problem of insufficient staff-to-patient ratios, which allows burnout rates to increase and put patients at risk. The contract also provided for a paltry 10.25% “increase” in the minimum wage over the life of the contract, which works out to around 3.41% a year, well below skyrocketing rates of inflation.
Los Angeles, California
After a planned strike was called off at the last minute at Long Beach Medical Center/Miller’s Children’s & Women’s Hospital last Wednesday, the ANC was successful in pushing through a concession contract. As is common practice for the union, workers were unable to review the full text of the contract before the day of the vote.
Although the union has praised the contract for staff increases, there is nothing but the promise of a ‘professional practice committee’, an advisory body of nurses linked to the union which will hold meetings on the issue of staff shortages.
On June 23, 1,000 Los Angeles Kaiser nurses also began a one-day strike. Kaiser LA nurses have been working without a contract since September last year and report staff are so disastrous they are unable to treat patients safely and rarely take regular lunch breaks
Ann Arbor, MI
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, the contract for Michigan Medicine’s 6,200 nurses expired on June 30. Management at the University of Michigan-affiliated hospital is determined to impose a concession contract with wage increases that don’t keep up with inflation, relentless mandatory overtime. and an oppressive custody system.
After months of negotiations, the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) and the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council (UMPNC) did nothing to mobilize nurses’ strength, instead isolating nurses from other workers in the same hospital system as well as from nurses from other hospitals. across the state who suffer under the same conditions.
Nurses’ unions have tried to steer nurses’ opposition into dead-end appeals to millionaires and billionaires on the university’s board of trustees. Refusing to mobilize the force of the nurses, the UMPNC did not call for a vote to authorize the strike, warning its members that the management of the hospital will not shrink from its demands for concessions. Instead, they held an information picket on July 16, more than two weeks after their contract expired.