"This is not a strike."
A statement from Megan Maloney manager of communications on behalf of nonprofit Marian Medical Center, Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, and French Hospital Medical Center emphasized that the nurses and other supporters marching with signs and shouting union slogans for three hours on July 26 were part of what she termed an "informational leafleting."
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- LINE OF SIGNS : On July 26, members of the California Nurses Association and other supporters marched with signs and shouted slogans to call awareness to ongoing negotiations with Catholic Healthcare West.
# Members of the California Nurses Association (CNA) described the event, held at Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) hospitals throughout the state, as a "public alert picket."
Whatever it was called, the local efforts held on East Church Street in Santa Maria and on Johnson Avenue in San Luis Obispo represented the nurses association's response to "the lack of progress made since bargaining over a new agreement began in April," according to a CNA statement.
Gregory Williams, who said he'd been a patient at French for five days, wheeled his IV pole out of the hospital to support the nurses. The bill collector had been visiting the area when he began feeling pains and sought treatment. He praised the staff at French and said he'd received good care. He had read about the CNA event in a newspaper article while at the hospital and wanted to join in some of the chants.
"If I could, I would get in line, but I think that I would look ridiculous," he said, gesturing at the various tubes still snaking from his body, including out of one nostril.
"Nurses deserve everything they get. They're like teachers," Williams said, noting that the two most important things in life are life itself and children.
The CNA and Catholic Healthcare West are in the midst of bargaining for a new contract the old one expired in June and has since been extended to Aug. 10 covering nine hospitals in southern California. Nurses at the three Central Coast Catholic Healthcare West hospitals organized as a single bargaining unit with nurses from six other hospitals three years ago.
"This is the first contract to be negotiated under that agreement," the CHW statement reads. "We are confident the negotiations will result in a contract that is mutually acceptable."
Bargaining will resume in Pasadena Aug. 6 through 8.
The main points that the picketers sought to draw attention to were enforcement of the state's registered-nurse-to-patient ratios, health benefits, and contract protection in case of a hospital sale.
"I feel like we sent a pretty clear message to the public and that it was well received and pretty widely broadcast," Vicki Bryant, a registered nurse and the chief nurse representative for French Hospital, said in an interview. "And I'm hoping that this picket has demonstrated to CHW that we really are serious about getting down to business and coming to some sort of agreement in our contract."
"We appreciate the hard work of our nurses in continuing to provide the highest quality care for our patients and communities," the CHW statement reads.
Bryant said that if progress continues to flag, CNA nurses have already taken a strike vote, which would be coordinated statewide.
"I'm the eternal optimist," she added. "I'm always hoping that this will be the time, that we'll be able to come to a meeting of the minds."