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100 Manteca Kaiser nurses strike
24-hour solidarity gesture for nurses facing benefit cuts
Nurses went on strike for 24 hours Thursday at Mantecas Kaiser hospital to protest cuts in healthcare benefits for nurses and other hospital workers. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Some 100 nurses at Manteca’s Kaiser Hospital walked the picket line Thursday in a 24-hour show of sympathy for their co-workers currently facing a contract with proposed cuts in healthcare and pensions for nurses in the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).

Rallies were being held at hospitals from Berkeley and Santa Rosa to Children’s Hospital in Oakland to a Kaiser Hospital in Roseville – 24 in all including Sutter Hospitals in the Bay Area.  Many motorists driving by the nurses walking along Yosemite Avenue and on the sidewalk were honking their horns in a show of support.

A spokesman for the Manteca nurses, Emergency Room Nurse Michael Quitasol, said the show of support would go on through 11 p.m. Thursday in front of the Kaiser campus.

In supporting the workers in the NUHW that represents 1,700 workers, Quitasol noted that Kaiser workers are 17,000 strong working alongside some of those they are supporting  at the Manteca facility including optometrists, social workers, psychologists and chemical dependency specialists.

While the 100 nurses were conducting their sympathy movement outside the West Yosemite Avenue facility, administrators were caring for patients, having reportedly undergone classes bringing their minimum proficiencies up to date.

Quitasol said that administrators and registry nurses had intense training classes all week long that included all nurse managers.  Quitasol and site coordinator for NUHW Mary McClelland explained that all surgeries had been canceled and the number of patients in-house had been minimized in anticipation of the walkout.

“If an emergency occurs, there is a safety task force that has been developed to respond at any given moment,” Quitasol said.  They are prepared to go to work at any given moment in the emergency room and in the intensive care unit.  

“We are in no way jeopardizing the patients,” he said.

The total number of hospitals in Northern and Central California sympathy walkout involves 23,000 registered nurses saying they will not accept attacks on RN rights to speak out for patients or cuts in healthcare or retiree coverage for nurses or other hospital volunteers.

Nurses said they have seen past contracts that have been penned with the NUHW workers become a precursor to what would be demanded of them in future bargaining sessions.

Thursday’s walkout affects two of the largest and wealthiest hospital chains in California, Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente as well as Children’s Hospital in Oakland.

The registered nurses belong to the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United and the strike will officially end at 7 a.m. today.  Sutter and Children’s have announced plans for a punitive lockout of nurses to extend the dispute.