Kaiser Permanente and other health providers are putting pressure on the powerful California Nurses Association (CAN) in negotiations for reductions in medical staffing and compensation due to the implementation of California’s version of Obamacare. Union nurses on Friday tried to launch a new initiative by demanding an extra compensation supplement and more staffing to be prepared to fight the Ebola virus.
Nurses are demanding a form of “risk” pay to prepare to fight Ebola. They also are demanding improved training, higher staffing levels, protective gear that exceeds the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requirements, and an added life insurance benefit.
Diane McClure, a bargaining agent and nurse at Kaiser Permanente’s hospital in Sacramento, treated a suspected Ebola patient earlier this month, told North State Public Radio that “We’d like to have an extra supplemental coverage, for specifically Ebola, if we were to contract Ebola while we’re at work.”
Although the patient tested negative for the Ebola hemorrhagic virus, McClure said risk of exposure to the deadly disease and nurses in her hospital never receiving sufficient hands-on-training caused staff enormous stress. She complained that management thought just putting some flyers on the tables and having nurses pull up some online CDC information would be enough to protect staff.
In a National Public Radio (NPR) interview with Joanne Spetz, economics professor at the School of Nursing at the University of California San Francisco said the California Nurses as part of the National Nurses’ Union (NNU) are taking advantage of the Ebola crisis to point out that they are willing to fight for nurse safety and pay.
With two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas already infected while treating just one Ebola patient, NNU jumped in quickly to criticize hospital management’s incompetence. According to Spetz, “Texas is a state that has had virtually no union representation for registered nurses. So NNU may view this as an opportunity to demonstrate to nurses in the state what the value of their representation might be.”
But the implementation of Obamacare has resulted in a huge loss in bargaining power for the CNA. In 2011, two of the biggest American strikes were led by members of the California Nurses Association and their allies in the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) against Kaiser Permanente. The company caved, resulting in a huge victory in pay and benefits that set the standard for nursing compensation in California and became a goal for the National Nurses Union’s bargaining demands.
Of California’s 250,230 registered nurses, Kaiser Permanente is the largest nurse employer with 17,000 members California Nurses’ Association. However, in February, Kaiser told the CNA that it needs to change staffing patterns drastically in its California networks of clinics and hospitals, which would include laying-off about 400 nurses.
The California Nurses’ Association is complaining that even though the Kaiser Permanente health care chain made $6 billion in profits since 2009, the company wants union job cuts and contract givebacks. Yet it was the California Nurses Association and other labor unions that campaigned for a single-payer health system for decades. Now that it has arrived in the form of Obamacare, it is union nurses’ pay and staffing that seem to be getting thrown under the bus.
Chriss Street suggests that if you are interested in California boondoggles, please click on “L.A. Schools Superintendent Gets Pension Spike, Then Resigns“