Strike avoided at San Joaquin General Hospital

Lodi News-Sentinel, Calif.
·2 min read

Feb. 23—With COVID-19 numbers finally abating following a post-holiday surge that sent hospitalizations and deaths soaring, San Joaquin County leaders and a union representing registered nurses announced on Monday that an upcoming strike has been temporarily averted.

"In an effort to avoid a possible strike at San Joaquin General Hospital, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors authorized county administrators to offer CNA-affiliated staff a one-time payment of $1.2 million, as a sign of good faith," Supervisor Tom Patti wrote in a statement on Monday.

This move will delay the strike and begin a 45-day cooling-off period in order to give both parties time to negotiate terms that would prevent a strike altogether, Patti said.

After the California Nurses Association submitted a notice to strike last Wednesday, county supervisors held a special session the next day to approve funding for contract nurses to work during the strike, which was set to begin on Feb. 27 at 7 a.m. and end on March 2 at 6:59 a.m.

Nurses opposed spending millions on strike nurses instead of redirecting funds to the county's nurses and negotiating a new contract.

"We nurses are pleased to get back to the bargaining table," said Kelly Mertz, a nurse at San Joaquin General. "It is unconscionable that we nurses have been without a contract for two years. We cannot recruit and retain experienced nurses without a fair contract. We have had 160 nurses leave San Joaquin County's health system since the pandemic began."

County supervisors held another special closed-door session on Feb. 19 to meet with its labor negotiating team to discuss the strike and contract. The county committed to return to the bargaining table and in response, the nurses agreed to temporarily call off the strike to resume negotiations.

CNA represents nearly 800 nurses in San Joaquin County, consisting of public health and county jail nurses as well as nurses at San Joaquin General, the only trauma center in the county.

The county's goal is to reach a resolution that does right by nurses, while also protecting the hospital's and the county's ability to serve the public over the long-term, Patti said.

"The county board and administrators have tremendous respect and appreciation for the work our nurses perform every day," Patti said. "We also acknowledge their work has been made even more challenging as a result of the pandemic."