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Contract ratification breaks 21-month struggle between California nurses, Sutter Health

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After a 21-month long contract negotiation, nurses at Alta Bates Medical Center ratified their agreement with Sutter Health on March 3.


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MARCH 08, 2023

Nurses at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center ratified their collective bargaining agreement on March 3, ending a 21-month long contract struggle with Sutter Health.

According to a press release from the California Nurses Association, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, or ABSMC, was one of 16 facilities in Northern California involved in bargaining for greater investments in nursing staff. The press release states that 87 percent of ABSMC nurses voted to ratify the contract following a tentative agreement by their bargaining team.

Nurses at the facilities also argued for better protections and pandemic-readiness measures — negotiations came to a head on April 18, 2022, when over 8,000 nurses and healthcare workers participated in a one-day strike to protest Sutter Health’s refusal to accept proposed policy changes. A five-day strike in October and a ten-day strike from late December to early January followed.

“We fought really hard against Sutter Health’s management,” said Amy Erb, a residential nurse at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, in an email. “We didn’t want to spend 21 months at the bargaining table but we also weren’t willing to compromise on nurse or patient safety. Our priority has and always will be fighting for our profession and our value of providing the highest quality of patient care.”

According to the California Nurses Association press release, nurses approved contracts specific to their facilities, but common themes across the agreements included new patient and nurse safety protections as well as improved working conditions for the recruitment and retention of nurses.

At ABSMC, the contract provisions will be enforced through workplace violence committees and the continuation of a Professional Practice Committee to hold the hospital accountable, according to Erb.

“We are pleased to have reached a fair and equitable agreement that supports and rewards our nurses and allows Sutter Health Alta Bates Medical Center to further our mission of providing our patients and communities access to safe, compassionate and high-quality care,” said Monique Binkley-Smith, Sutter Health media relations manager, in an email.

ABSMC’s bargaining team signed the tentative agreement with Sutter Health on Feb. 24. According to Erb, they will have their new protocols in effect through Nov. 2027, while agreements at the other Sutter hospitals will run through Dec. 2026.

As the agreements were negotiated by the California Nurses Association union, its provisions will apply to registered nurse members of the union across Sutter Health facilities in northern California.

“Nurses across California and across the nation set an example when we take on the hospital industry,” Erb said in an email. “Every time we take the industry on, whether at the bargaining table or on the picket line, we’re saying that valuing profits over patients is not OK. We believe that healthcare is a human right.”

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MARCH 09, 2023