SAN LEANDRO, Calif. — Over 4,000 health care workers struck for five days here and at five other hospitals across Alameda and San Joaquin counties during the first week of October, in defense of health and safety for their patients and themselves.
“They want to shred every article of our current contract,” Linda Strack, a telemetry nurse at Alameda Hospital, told the Militant Oct. 10. “They want to disband our safety committee. Instead of having one nurse from every department on it, they say, ‘Why not just have one nurse?’”
“We are striking because it will only get worse unless we do something,” she said. “We are here for our patients.”
Over 3,000 members of the Service Employees International Union, including RNs and many other job classifications, as well as 1,125 nurses organized in the California Nurses Association, are on strike. They are challenging the way hospital administrators have responded to COVID-19 by doubling down on long-term profit-driven practices of short staffing and cost cutting.
At the Fairmont rehabilitation hospital, food service worker Cristian Paz led picketers in chants of, “Air conditioning, not popsicles.” The hospital is over 100 years old, he told the Militant, and temperatures in patient rooms reached 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the recent heat wave. Bosses issued popsicles to “cool” patients down. “We are short staffed,” Paz said. “Management chooses to pay overtime instead of scheduling adequate staff. And instead of hiring, they use staffing agencies.”
The East Bay Times has tried to scandalize the workers, echoing the bosses at Alameda Health System saying workers shouldn’t be striking “in the middle of pandemic.” But strikers say support among working people there is strong.
“It’s not just nurses on strike,” Alison Austin, an RN at Fairmont hospital, told the Militant. “It’s also clerical workers, nutritionists, receptionists, all the jobs. When we all walked out it looked like Exodus!”