Long Beach Medical Center (LBMC) nurses must reject the California Nurses Association’s proposed tentative agreement by the widest possible margin. CNA called off a picket line scheduled for Wednesday and is rushing for a vote on the deal by the end of the week, without giving nurses enough time to study the deal.
LBMC nurses are ready to take a stand for all healthcare workers who want to fight back against the abuses of giant hospital chains whose priority is profit, not saving lives. But they are being held back by the union bureaucracy, which has sold out one fight after another and imposed substandard contracts that do nothing to address understaffing and keep wage increases well below inflation. That includes tens of thousands of workers at Kaiser Permanente on the West Coast late last year, 1,600 nurses at Providence St. Vincent in Oregon and 2,000 nurses at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
A rejection, however, is only the starting point. Nurses must act now to develop a grassroots committee at Long Beach Medical Center to challenge the bureaucratic strangulation of their struggle. Calls must be made for a broader struggle uniting nurses on the West Coast and nationwide.
Voting will take place on Thursday and Friday, but nurses will only have access to the full AT on voting day. Nurses also report that they have repeatedly signed up for the union’s e-newsletter over several months and have never received email updates, leading them to wonder if they will ever receive the link to vote. This is a classic union tactic of pulling wool over members’ eyes to force a sellout.
Selected highlights of the deal the nurses received call for “significantly improved wages” and “improvements” to shift differentials and on-call pay. However, beyond these vague claims, it contains no additional information, not even basic information like percentages. If these salary increases were truly “meaningful,” they would be proudly listed on the flyer.
According to the information provided to World Socialist Website by an LBMC nurse, salary increases will be around 4-5% for 2023 and 2024 under the new deal, barely half the current level of inflation. In other words, instead of a “significant improvement in wages”, the agreement would impose deep cuts in real wages.
These highlights do not include any discussion of health care benefits, an issue that will directly affect nurses and their families over the next three years.
Changes to contractual “language” about floating, used in hospitals to move staff around to cover shortages, are vague and superficial and will do nothing to address the overwork nurses face.
In the 2019 contract, night shift nurses were given an additional 40 hours of personal time off (PTO) to account for sleep issues, health issues and frequent scheduling conflicts that arise for nurses who work shifts. night. In highlights, CNA celebrates that Night PTO “will continue through June 2024.” It’s like celebrating an eviction notice because the eviction won’t happen for another year.
Along the same lines, the highlights note that the “blood insurance program” will end one year after the start of the contract. The blood insurance program allows employees to donate blood in exchange for overtime PTO hours. Each blood donation gives the employee four hours of additional PTO, with a maximum of 16 hours per year. Of course, nurses shouldn’t be required to donate four pints of blood to get extra PTO hours, but the end of the program isn’t compensated with a guaranteed extra PTO.
More importantly, there is no language in the staffing highlights. This is the most significant issue facing nurses not just at LBMC, but across the country, as the pandemic has left hospitals chronically overstretched.
Massive opposition from nurses was expressed in the comments section of the CNA Long Beach Memorial FB page, where nurses voiced their opposition to both the rush of the vote and highlights of the agreement. of principle. Nurses were quick to express their frustration with CNA’s undemocratic methods. “Why aren’t they scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday as well?” asked a nurse. “Are you emailing us the TAs and contract beforehand so we’re ready to answer your questions?” I think you would want to educate us and fully inform us before you vote.
Another said, “What’s stopping the union from showing us TA?… Many of us don’t trust the union and showing us TA could help solve this problem. We are asked to trust the negotiating team, but how can we if we are kept in the dark? »
The union arrogantly dismissed these and other comments as “misinformed” and hypocritically telling them to “read the entire contract”, which they do not provide, before making a decision.
No doubt CNA will tell nurses that the deal on the table is the best they can get. They will also try to scare the nurses by saying that if they reject the deal, the next one will be even worse.
What nurses face, however, is not a “normal” contract fight, but a fight to save the healthcare system from collapse. Two and a half years of endless pandemic outbreaks have pushed hospitals across the country to the brink, which have been starved of funding while hospital leaders and the health care industry as a whole have reaped huge profits. Nurses and other healthcare professionals are being driven out of the profession en masse by constant and unbearable levels of overwork, making the situation even more dangerous for staff and patients.
It’s time for nurses to take matters into their own hands. Despite what unions say, nurses are not isolated. Far from there. Indeed, the day before voting begins at Long Beach Medical, 4,500 CNA nurses from three other California hospitals will begin a two-day strike at Seton Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente LA Medical Center and Palomar Health in San Diego. .
Moreover, beyond the health care industry, the biggest wave of working class strikes and protests in generations is underway, shifting the balance of power in favor of nurses and all who care. are committed to public health oriented towards human need and not profit.
But to actualize this power, nurses need organizations that they control. This means the formation of a grassroots committee at Long Beach Medical Center, composed and controlled by the nurses themselves and not by the bureaucracy. By affiliating with the Health Care Workers Rank-and-File Steering Committee, made up of nurses and healthcare workers across the United States, nurses in Long Beach can call on their allies in hospitals across the country and to the working class as a whole for a united struggle.
If you agree with this program, get involved! Contact us for more information on how to found a committee by filling out the form below: