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Latest News - October 2014

October 30, 2014
National Nurses Union plans strike to demand greater protections against Ebola
Source: Contra Costa Times
By: Joyce Tsai

OAKLAND -- Stepping up demands to protect nurses from Ebola, the national nurses's union said Thursday that nurses coast-to-coast are planning a National Day of Action on Nov. 12 that includes strikes at 21 Kaiser Permanente facilities in Northern California.

Zenei Cortez, co-president of the California Nurses Association, which is part of National Nurses United, said Kaiser nurses plan to strike Nov. 11-12.

When it comes to Ebola, "the message that nurses have been getting around the nation is that we are expendable," said Deborah Burger, co-president of National Nurses United and president of the California Nurses Association. "At first there was shock, then anger -- and now we want action.

"They don't have the appropriate training and protection," she said of nurses in her organization and nationwide, urging that hospitals provide nurses with hazmat suits, proper protective equipment and training to safeguard against Ebola. "These are human beings. We're talking about our nurses that are heroes and take care of this country."

The union has been in contract negotiations over a four-year labor contract with Kaiser for 18,000 registered nurses that expired August 31. Since that time, there have been two extensions, the most recent of which expired Oct. 24.

An impasse in negotiations has led to recent strikes, but Cortez said the strikes were not over disagreements in compensation, but rather ongoing concerns about patient care and safety at Kaiser.

"The claims CNA is making about Kaiser Permanente's Ebola preparedness, in an attempt to justify a strike, are simply untrue,'' said Gay Westfall, Kaiser's senior vice president for human resources. "In fact, CNA is well aware of Kaiser Permanente's comprehensive and thorough training and preparation for Ebola. Safety is our primary focus -- for all of our nurses, doctors, employees and the public.''

Calling the response so far of Kaiser and other hospitals nationwide disgraceful, Burger talked of "all the cover-ups, all the happy-face talk and all the shallow ways" in which hospital officials say they are prepared to ward off the deadly virus.

"We only need to look at Dallas, Texas, to see how it was ground zero for how our nurses are prepared," she said. "Two nurses were infected and had to fight for their lives for care and to make sure they got the care they needed. So whenever our hospitals say they are prepared. We say, 'Oh really? Like you were in Dallas?'"

In addition to the two-day strike, the Nov. 12 day of action will include training demonstrations, candlelight vigils and other protest activities at hospitals across the nation and state, including Sutter Tracy Community Hospital and University of California hospitals, Burger said.



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