FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 3, 2014
Parkview Nurses Launch Independence Weekend Strike on July 3, Tell Hospital CEO “Don’t Tread On Our Patients!”
Riverside, CA—Nurses at Parkview Community Hospital in Riverside this morning launched a three-day, Independence Weekend strike over issues of patient safety—including unfair labor practices committed by the hospital that have jeopardized patient safety—after months at the bargaining table with new CEO Steve Popkin failed to produce a contract acceptable to the nurses.
“As bedside nurses, we’re there for our patients around the clock, every single day. We know what our patients need, and we’re their voice in the hospital,” said Judy Vargas, RN in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). “But we have a CEO who doesn’t seem to know the first thing about patient care or what nurses do. He’s not a nurse. He’s not a doctor. But he absolutely refuses to listen to his own nurses when it comes to patient care and safety. So we’re declaring our independence from Popkin and standing up for our patients’ inalienable rights to safe care.”
“Our hospital is persistently understaffed, endangering patients and violating California’s safe staffing law,” said Viera Daniels, RN in Pediatrics and sometimes Neo-Natal ICU. “We’ve got pediatric monitors that are 33 years old, so out of date that new nurses aren’t even trained on them. Yet CEO Popkin would rather hemorrhage hospital funds to fly replacement nurses in from all over the country and put them up in hotels for a week, than spend money for updated equipment and enough nurses from our own community to care for patients here in Riverside.”
The strike began at 7 AM this morning, with picketing RNs in blue scrubs, Uncle Sam hats and beards, carrying signs that read “Don’t Tread On Our Patients” and “Patient Safety is Patriotic.” It continued with an 11 AM rally, where over 200 nurses were joined by community supporters, including Rabbi Suzanne Singer of Riverside’s Temple Beth El and Laurie Stalnaker, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Central Labor Council of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. Hundreds of RNs are expected to walk the picket lines through Saturday, taking time away from their families over the holiday weekend to highlight the patient safety issues at the hospital.
Negotiations for a new contract between members of the Parkview Registered Nurses Association (PRNA) and Parkview management began in March. On June 12 management presented the nurses’ bargaining team with their Last, Best and Final Offer. On June 13, the hospital signed a contract with Nurse Bridge, a company that provides replacement nurses for strikes, prior to the union’s vote on their contract proposal. PRNA members voted on June 19, rejecting management’s proposal with a 94% No vote. On June 23 the union submitted a ten-day notice of a three-day strike. The hospital announced that it would lock out the striking nurses for a total of five days. On June 26, the union met with hospital management and a Federal mediator, resulting in a slightly modified settlement proposal from the hospital. Over June 27 and 28, PRNA members rejected this new proposal by an 85% No vote, which also meant a vote to strike.
The key issues involve patient safety—including unfair labor practices committed by the hospital, jeopardizing patient care, over which the union has filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board. The unfair labor practices include the hospital awarding overtime shifts to “travelers”—nurses employed by an outside agency unfamiliar with the patients, the hospital and its systems—in preference to Parkview RNs, violating their contract, breaking continuity of care for the patients and creating a greater risk of negative patient outcomes. A total of 9 unfair labor practice charges have been filed, also including unlawful surveillance of the nurses after they voted to strike.
“CEO Popkin could end this strike right now by showing Parkview nurses that his foremost commitment is to patient care and the people of Riverside,” said Ken Deitz, RN and President of UNAC/UHCP. “He’s hiring inexperienced, well-intentioned new grad nurses and putting them into critical care positions like the ER and Intensive Care. During negotiations, he proposed that Charge Nurses, who oversee a whole unit and have to be right there in case of emergency, should cover multiple units on multiple floors. He couldn’t understand why that was a problem. He said, ‘We’ve got stairs. We’ve got elevators.’ He tried to get rid of the Registered Nurses’ Advisory Committee, which is the formal process where nurses can bring patient care concerns to his attention. He doesn’t want to hear from his own nurses about patient care! CEO Popkin, we call on you to respect the voice of your nurses. Then we can all be united for the safety of patients in Riverside.”
The Parkview Registered Nurses Association (PRNA) is an affiliate of the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP).