UC Nurses Vote to Approve Strike

    ‘UCSD made $61 million in profit last year, so we don’t think it would be too much to ask to staff up for when a nurse goes on a lunch break,’ Jenkins said. ‘It puts the patient and the nurse in an unsafe and unhealthy position.’

    Jenkins added that the continual inflation of UC executive salaries is evidence of the university’s ability to pump more funding into bettering hospital conditions.

    ‘In light of all this financial crisis the executives get very large raises,’ Jenkins said. ‘They have enough money to give their executives huge advantages so the CEOs have all the money to give raises and pensions but not enough to make sure nurses can effectively take care of patients.’

    Jenkins said the strike authorization should serve primarily as a means of illustrating the gravity of the issue and hopes that university officials adequately address the nurses’ concerns before a strike is necessary.

    However, university officials claim the allegations are groundless.

    An official response from the UC Office of the President called the grievances an ‘unfair labor practice charge’ and cited a past agreement between the university and CNA stipulating that staffing regulations were to be decided individually by each medical center.

    ‘CNA’s accusations that UC has bargained in bad faith are false, and the university believes there is no factual basis for CNA’s unfair labor practice [accusation],’ UC spokesman Paul Schwartz said in a statement.

    According to Schwartz, the university pays its nurses above state market value while offering extensive medical and pension benefits.

    CNA representatives, however, claim that the university continues to cut corners around medical center costs.

    The UC system reported a total profit of $227 million during the 2007-08 fiscal year, with nearly $3.6 billion in assets coming from its medical centers, a number the CNA cites as reason to route more funding toward university medical centers.

    Nurses at the UCLA medical center expressed similar grievances last year, leading officials to increase staffing levels.

    ‘At UCLA the nurses forced the [staffing] issue a year ago,’ Jenkins said. ‘UCLA has the biggest hospital in the system and the deals they worked out have lasted. They pleaded it was too costly, too, but it’s still making profit.’

    Readers can contact Henry Becker at [email protected].

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    Nurses at five University of California medical centers voted last week to pass an initiative authorizing a strike, responding to what the California Nurses Association calls the university’s unofficial policy of understaffing hospitals past the minimum required by the state, exhausting nurses and potentially endangering patients.

    State law requires a minimum ratio of nurses to patients at all times, depending upon the condition of the patients being monitored.

    Nurses like Geri Jenkins, an employee at the UCSD medical center for 32 years and co-president of the CNA, allege that UC officials have been cutting staffing levels and stretching resources, forcing nurses to fill in extra hours, miss breaks and work under unsatisfactory conditions to meet patients’ needs.

    Jenkins said that at UCSD, which draws a significant annual profit for the university, there is no reason to maintain inadequate staffing levels or unsafe hospital conditions.

    ‘UCSD made $61 million in profit last year, so we don’t think it would be too much to ask to staff up for when a nurse goes on a lunch break,’ Jenkins said. ‘It puts the patient and the nurse in an unsafe and unhealthy position.’

    Jenkins added that the continual inflation of UC executive salaries is evidence of the university’s ability to pump more funding into bettering hospital conditions.

    ‘In light of all this financial crisis the executives get very large raises,’ Jenkins said. ‘They have enough money to give their executives huge advantages so the CEOs have all the money to give raises and pensions but not enough to make sure nurses can effectively take care of patients.’

    Jenkins said the strike authorization should serve primarily as a means of illustrating the gravity of the issue and hopes that university officials adequately address the nurses’ concerns before a strike is necessary.

    However, university officials claim the allegations are groundless.

    An official response from the UC Office of the President called the grievances an ‘unfair labor practice charge’ and cited a past agreement between the university and CNA stipulating that staffing regulations were to be decided individually by each medical center.

    ‘CNA’s accusations that UC has bargained in bad faith are false, and the university believes there is no factual basis for CNA’s unfair labor practice [accusation],’ UC spokesman Paul Schwartz said in a statement.

    According to Schwartz, the university pays its nurses above state market value while offering extensive medical and pension benefits.

    CNA representatives, however, claim that the university continues to cut corners around medical center costs.

    The UC system reported a total profit of $227 million during the 2007-08 fiscal year, with nearly $3.6 billion in assets coming from its medical centers, a number the CNA cites as reason to route more funding toward university medical centers.

    Nurses at the UCLA medical center expressed similar grievances last year, leading officials to increase staffing levels.

    ‘At UCLA the nurses forced the [staffing] issue a year ago,’ Jenkins said. ‘UCLA has the biggest hospital in the system and the deals they worked out have lasted. They pleaded it was too costly, too, but it’s still making profit.’

    Readers can contact Henry Becker at [email protected].

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