Nearly 2,500 California nurses threaten Christmas Eve strike over work conditions

Nearly 2,500 California nurses threaten Christmas Eve strike over work conditions
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Nearly 2,500 registered nurses informed The Hospital Corporation of America on Monday that they planned on striking in 10 days due to what they allege are unsafe working conditions, a move that could impact operations at three Southern California hospitals.

According to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 121 chapter, the strike is planned to take place from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3. As NBC News reports, the strikes are planned at Riverside Community Hospital, Los Robles Regional Medical Center and West Hills Hospital and Medical Center.

According Terry Carter, spokesperson for SEIU Local 121, the nurses are striking due to frustrations in contract negotiations for four bargaining units and issues regarding workplace safety and staffing.

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The union also cited a lack of testing for staff members and long wait times that coronavirus patients must go through before seeing a nurse.

Nurses have taken issue with what they see as “dangerously low staffing levels” and not enough personal protective equipment (PPE), increasing their risk of becoming infected by the coronavirus.

“Management just keeps coming back with weak, unenforceable, and vague lip service,” said Carter.

The Hospital Corporation of America said its hospitals "must limit their full scope of services in order to ensure nurses are available to care for patients with the highest needs," NBC reported.

The organization claims it bargained in “good faith” and characterized the nurses’ decision to "abandon the beside" as “unconscionable.”

According to Katherine Montanino, an ICU nurse at Riverside Community Hospital, her colleagues had previously struggled for years with staffing issues before the pandemic, NBC reported. Montanino said conditions at the hospital improved under a mediated agreement until it ended in May. After a strike in June, new negotiations with the hospital began.

"It's so emotionally draining to do these back and forths, I mean we're nurses, we're not lawyers," said Montanino. "We want to be there to take care of people. We're prone to get taken advantage of because of our moral and ethical standards and our need to want to help and take care of people."

Like most of the U.S., California has seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, breaking daily records of cases that have numbered in the tens of thousands.