10 Recent Nursing Strikes, Lawsuits and Unionizations at U.S. Hospitals

Here are 10 recent strikes, lawsuits and unionization efforts by nursing forces at U.S. hospitals.


1. Quincy Medical Center nurses' contract negotiations halt until federal mediator arrives. The Massachusetts Nurses Association has asked a federal mediator to assist in contract negotiations between Quincy (Mass.) Medical Center and its nursing staff, after the two parties failed to reach a new contract agreement at the end of February. Both sides said they expect negotiations to resume when the mediator starts working with the hospital and union sometime next month. One of the biggest conflicts has arisen over nurse-patient staffing ratios at the hospital. The two sides reached an agreement for the nurses' last contract in September. The contract expired on Feb. 28.

2. Nursing strike racks up $6 million bill for Washington Hospital Center.
A nursing strike in early March cost Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center approximately $6 million to cover temporary nurse wages, security and other costs. Union officials reported that more than 1,000 nurses were involved in the one-day strike on Friday, March 4. Following the strike, the participating nurses were locked out of the hospital from Saturday until Wednesday, when they started returning at 5:00 a.m. The hospital spent approximately $3.5 million on wages, transportation and lodging for the temporary nurses, $1.5 million on salaries for the estimated 500 staff nurses who crossed the picket line on Friday and $1 million on security and other costs.

3. Massachusetts Nurses Association may be planning five-hospital strike for April. Administration at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., believes the Massachusetts Nurses Association is planning a coordinated strike, to take place at five New England hospitals on April 22. Nurses at several Massachusetts hospitals, including Boston's Tufts Medical Center and Saint Vincent Hospital, have picketed and protested over contract disputes in the last week. Three other New England hospitals — Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Mass., Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Mass., and Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine — are also expected to be affected by the strike. An MNA spokesperson said strike plans will depend on the result of contract negotiations. The hospitals and nurses are still gridlocked over issues of pay, pension and staffing levels.

4. Nurses at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota vote to unionize. Nurses at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota (Fla.) voted to unionize in early March, joining the National Nurses Organizing Committee-Florida. The hospital is the tenth HCA-owned hospital in Florida to unionize in the last year. The union and HCA is currently working to agree on a contract for the nurses, who are seeking higher pay and higher nurse-to-patient staffing ratios.

5. San Antonio hospital nurse files lawsuit against Christus Santa Rosa Health System.
A nurse from San Antonio-based Christus Santa Rosa Health System filed a lawsuit against the Catholic system in early March, claiming it knowingly allowed an abortion to be performed in 2009 and later fired her out of retaliation after she reported it to the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Tammy Perez met with Catholic officials in the weeks following a complicated procedure that she feels was an abortion. The surgical procedure involved suction, according to the suit, and the patient's chart with missing documentation to ensure the absence of a heartbeat. After reporting the incident, Ms. Perez claims the hospital changed her shift without telling her so she would miss work. She was fired in Oct. 2009, according to the report. The system also says Ms. Perez's firing was not out of retaliation, but for violating patient privacy laws by revealing medical records to archdiocesan officials.

6. 1,000 nurses stage walk-out at Kaiser Hospital. Approximately 1,000 Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center nurses — at least 90 percent of the hospital's 1,100 unionized nurses — staged a 24-hour walk-out on March 2. The walk-out started at 6:00 a.m. The nurses signed up for the walk-out because of dissatisfaction over Kaiser Permanente's alleged refusal to address staffing levels at the Los Angeles hospital, as well as the health system's alleged refusal to bargain in good faith. Kaiser Permanente officials responded to the allegations by saying the system has bargained in good faith. The walk-out represented the first strike by Kaiser workers in 13 years.

7. Albany Medical Center to pay $4.5 million to settle nurse pay lawsuit.
Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center agreed to pay $4.5 million in late February to settle a federal class-action lawsuit alleging Albany administrators conspired with other hospital leaders to limit the pay of around 4,000 registered nurses. The lawsuit alleges that the greater Albany-area hospitals were involved in the publication of an annual survey about upstate New York hospital salaries and benefits. The lawsuit also alleges that hospitals kept nursing pay lower than the industry standard. Albany Medical Center denies wrongdoing, as do the other involved hospital-operating companies.

8. California Nurses Association and SEIU unionize nurses at HCA hospitals. The California Nurses Association has organized nurses at 13 HCA hospitals, and the SEIU has organized more than 4,500 HCA staff members since the hospital chain signed a neutrality agreement allowing the unions to organize workers at 20 hospitals. The year long-agreement allows union workers to organize workers at the specific HCA hospitals — all of which are located in Florida, Texas, Missouri or Nevada — without objection from the operator. As part of the agreement, HCA pledged to provide the unions lists of employees and allow them on hospital property.

9. Nurses at CHS Hospital in New Jersey approve unionization.
Nurses at Memorial Hospital of Salem County in Swedesboro, N.J., approved unionization in mid-December, according to the Health Professionals and Allied Employees, New Jersey's largest union. Community Health Systems, the parent company of MHSC, originally objected to the election, claiming that a substantial number of RNs were supervisors and therefore ineligible to vote. The National Labor Relations Board, however, ruled in favor of HPAE, allowing the vote to move forward. The hospital joined six other HCA facilities that saw nurse unionization in the months prior.

10. Nurses at Pennsylvania's Wilkes-Barre stage one-day strike. Nurses at Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) General Hospital held a one-day strike on Dec. 23 in protest of "bad faith bargaining" by Wilkes-Barre parent, Community Health Systems. CHS bought the hospital in May 2009. Negotiations between the nurses and CHS had persisted for over a year. The three major points of contention in the contract were safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, the ability of CHS to unilaterally change benefits during the contract's duration and the details of CHS' healthcare plan. More than 400 nurses from the Wyoming Valley Nurses Association staged the strike.

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