Barton Health nurses on strike; negotiations to resume in June
Clad in red and holding signs, more than 100 people rallied outside of Barton Memorial Hospital Friday demanding a contract for nurses who moved in 2017 to unionize.
The one-day strike aims to help break a deadlock in labor negotiations that started more than a year ago.
“What do we want?” a speaker yelled out.
The crowd responded with “contracts.”
Both the California Nurses Association and Barton accuse the other of failing to negotiate in good faith. Those accusations have manifested in the form of complaints to the National Labor Relations Board.
The strike will end at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, although the roughly 180 nurses in the bargaining group will not be able to return to work until May 29 at the earliest. That is due to a five-day minimum work requirement with a staffing agency hired by Barton to provide 60 temporary nurses.
Union members see this as a lock out meant to punish striking nurses.
Barton says it’s needed to ensure services continue during the strike.
As of Friday afternoon the strike had no impact on Barton’s ability to operate, according to Mindi Befu, director of public relations at Barton.
“Barton is delivering the same exceptional level of patient care today that it delivers 365 days a year.”
For the striking nurses, who were joined Friday by family members and supporters in the community, their willingness to go on strike and lose several days of pay reflects their commitment to obtain a contract they deem fair.
“A contract should be done by now,” Beth Dameral, a registered nurse at Barton and member of the negotiating team, told the Tribune after noting that negotiations started in March 2018.
“They’re failing to negotiate in good faith.”
Barton has a different view of the negotiations.
“Barton takes this process very seriously and we come prepared to every meeting, ready to move ahead. We are negotiating in good faith. The union continues to drag its feet, holding back on areas where they know we’re in agreement,” Befu said.
An apparent roadblock in the negotiating process is whether nurses should be compelled to join the union. CNA and other labor groups argue such requirements are necessary to maintain union numbers and strengthen their ability to negotiate.
Barton views the proposal from CNA, which they say would force Barton to terminate any California registered nurse who doesn’t join the union, as unfair. Due to Nevada state law, that requirement would not apply to Nevada nurses.
“Barton wants all nurses to have a choice and does not want to terminate anyone for their choice,” Befu said.
Dameral said this is another example of Barton failing to realize the desire of its employees.
“The nurses have said they want the union,” said Dameral, who noted that the nurses’ vote to strike was unanimous. “I see this as more of Barton not listening (to its nurses).”
The two sides are slated to continue negotiations June 4 and 5.
Dameral said nurses want to be at work at patients’ bedsides and not on strike. But as CNA Co-president and RN Zenei Cortez told the crowd Friday, it took seven strikes to reach a contract agreement when nurses at Sacramento’s Kaiser Permanente unionized in the early ‘80s.
“One day longer, one day stronger,” she said to the crowd.
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