Nurses at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center will be home for Christmas Day this year, and patients at the city’s largest hospital will be cared for by contract nurses brought in from other places.

    Representatives of the California Nurses Association gave Memorial administrators notice Friday that they were planning a one-day strike on Dec. 22 — a strike of a public medical facility requires a 14-day notice. The CNA represents about 2,000 nurses working at Memorial, and the union has been negotiating for a new contract for nearly six months.

    Another negotiation session took place Monday. Diana Hendel, CEO of Memorial Medical and Miller Children’s Hospital said that the union was told that if there was no agreement stopping the strike by 5 p.m. Monday, she would be forced to sign a five-day contract with the company providing the replacement nurses, starting on Dec. 22 and running through Dec. 26.

    No agreement was reached.

    “The union might have a one-day strike, but we have to sign a five-day contract,” Hendel said. “That means our nurses will not be paid, will not accrue benefits and there will be no holiday (overtime) pay.”

    Hendel said the strike and replacement contract will cost Memorial several million dollars, including paying for additional security to deal with strikers and additional supervision to help the replacement staff. But medical services would not be curtailed, she said.

    “We will remain fully operational,” she said. “We won’t be canceling any procedures. These are experienced, well-qualified nurses.”

    Margie Keenan, an RN who has worked at Memorial for 38 years and is on the CNA board, said the strike is more about patient safety than about money. Memorial made its “last, best and final” offer on Nov. 12, which included a minimum 3% wage increase.

    “This strike was called by the nurses,” Keenan said, refuting arguments by Hendel that rank-and-file nurses did not support the union stance. “We are the union. And we want adequate nurses to be at the bedside. This strike was called about patient safety. We work 12-hour shifts, and we need breaks and lunch. We need an adequate number of nurses to cover those breaks and lunches, and we haven’t been able to come to agreement over that.”

    Keenan said the union disagreed that Memorial was paying comparable wages, and disputed a Hendel claim that the average nurse made $93,000 a year. Keenan said many nurses had to take more than 30 budget days, or furloughs, in the last year because the administration said there wasn’t enough work to justify higher staffing.

    “We are aware of the budget situation and if there is not enough work we take furloughs,” Keenan said. “But the hospital is using those budget days to cut. They are staffing at bare bones, where we’d like to see staffing for some cushion in case of emergencies.”

    Hendel said that the union had requested answers to more than 100 questions Friday afternoon along with the strike notice. She said that the union still had not responded specifically to the financial offers made on Nov. 12.

    Keenan, meanwhile, characterized Memorial’s action signing a five-day contract for replacement nurses as a lockout.

    “We have a one-day strike,” Keenan said. “We still want an agreement. We would continue talking, but there are no more dates set (before Dec. 22). That’s their doing. We still could come to agreement before (the strike).”

    The California Nurses Association has represented nurses at Memorial for the last decade. The nurses at Memorial Medical Center last went on strike in 2002, during the CNA’s negotiation of its first contract.

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Very well said Futboluvr. I have been working @ LBMMC as an RN for 7 yrs and let me tell you, the only time my annual salary came close to $93,000 was when I worked 1 full time and a part-time job. How did the management come up with that figure in the first place? Were they talking about the Unit Managers and assistant unit managers annual salary? Because if they are, then its probably true but for a regular unit staff RN, that amount is simply a fabrication. Anybody with a logical mind can try looking at public records to see what are facts versus fiction.
The strike is first and foremost about patient safety. I work in a unit where patient ratio gets violated almost every single day. The last few months, there have been many night shifts where RNs have to take on a full assignment (meaning 4:1 or 5:1 assignment) without a single nurse's aide to assist with other tasks for which these aides are safely trained to do. What often happens is these RNs are then forced to take an extra patient because of lack of staff. How's that for patient safety?
As for meal reliefs and breaks, doesnt the labor law require that ALL employees who work 8 hours get at least an uninterrupted 30 minute meal break? Some RNs at LBMMC do not get that "luxury" because there isnt a staff RN assigned for meal relief only, so what happens is an RN buddies up with another RN who will watch his/her call light while eating on the run and in the meantime, the RN watching the call lights is taking care of 8-10 sick patients. How is that safe for the patients? How is that patient-centered care?
In nursing school, our instructors would always tell us that the best nurses are those who advocate for the patient's rights. LBMMC RNs are going on strike because we are doing what we are supposed to do for our patients at all times and that is to be our patients' advocates.



In response to the articles today and yesterday in the Press Telegram, I would like to make some clarifications to the comments made by the hospital.

First, nurses do not make $93,000 per year. Not even a nurse with 20+ years makes that much money.

Second, the hospital has locked out the nurses for 4 days, the strike is only 1 day. Since they have decided not to let us return to work on Friday, they have hired temp nurses from the south, as in, Georgia and Alabama, to come fill in. The nurses are being paid at a premium, plus airfare, lodging, and food. The bill for the 4 day lockout that the hospital has over $6 MILLION! The hospital says these nurses are highly trained, yet, these nurses are the same ones used in No. Cal at a Sutter owned Hospital where the nurse gave a patient Ensure through an IV and killed her! Yes, Ensure, the drink! I think anyone with common sense would know that a shake type drink shouldn't go through an IV.

Third, the union has presented a list of questions for the hospital since July. The hospital has had five months to reply, yet they haven't. They accuse the nurses union of being difficult and uncooperative, yet the hospital is the one that comes into the meetings and sits stone-faced, refusing to answer questions and negotiate fairly.

The hospital has been harassing nurses, calling them at home and on their mobile phones, trying to get them to switch their support from the union to the hospital.

Nurse managers have been using nurses that favor the hospital and encouraging them to harass and threaten other nurses that are pro-union. There was a nurse that confronted and threatened a union supporting nurse in on of the break rooms. When the complaint was brought to the hospital's attention, they swept it under the rug. I would think after the pharmacy shooting a couple of years ago, that the hospital would take short-tempered, confrontational people seriously. They don't! That doesn't sound like they're guaranteeing hospital safety.

The recent articles in the Telegram are very one-sided. It's clear that the Telegram favors the side of the hospital and is not supportive of unions. Citizens that are members of the Memorial groups should make sure they are well informed about the care that will be provided by the temp nurses during the lock-out.