LA County Registered Nurses represented by SEIU 721 have authorized an Unfair Labor Practice strike to escalate their fight for patient safety!
Nurses, who voted over 12 days, authorized the strike with an overwhelming 98% “NO” vote to reject the County’s Last Best and Final Offer.
With the ULP strike authorization, nurses are sounding the alarm on threats to patient care and calling on County management to finally address the chronic RN retention crisis it has struggled with for years.
“The chronic retention crisis is at the heart of this strike because it directly impacts patient care,” said Bob Schoonover, President of SEIU 721. “Instead of investing in the retention of experienced Nurses, management continually relies on band-aid remedies that jeopardize patient care and only prolong the pain – like over reliance on Nurse registries and shifting high-need patients to beds where they won’t receive the intensive care they need. But instead of doing the right thing, LA County management has chosen to break labor laws. These leaders need to do right by the people they were elected to serve and work with us to solve these retention problems once and for all.”
Several dozen nurses and members turned out for the vote count at SEIU 721 headquarters on Friday night. It was a jovial mood as it became increasingly apparent that the number of “NO” votes far outweighed those to accept the County’s offer.
With more than 7,000 Registered Nurses at flagship public hospitals and clinics across LA County, the approved ULP strike from these nurses could spell a critical work stoppage as the holidays approach.
The ULP strike could start as early as Thanksgiving Day and an official strike authorization notice will be delivered directly to the LA County Board of Supervisors next week.
“I am so proud of my fellow nurses for standing together and showing the County in no uncertain terms that we truly care for our patients and will stop at nothing to secure their safety,” said Vivien Du, a Public Health Nurse for the California Children’s Services program who came to observe the vote count. “It was important for me to be here because we are the Union and this is what it means to exercise our rights and our collective voice. We organized and mobilized at our worksites and we got this done because we have had enough!”
LA County Registered Nurses provide vital care for the County’s 11 million residents. They have been working with critical staffing shortages for years as the County struggles to keep nurses in its system.
The impact of the revolving door is evident in key departments, including the county’s Emergency Rooms, where RNs handle more than 300,000 ER visits annually. For example, while LAC+USC Medical Center’s ER department hired 100 new RNs in the last three years, it also lost 66 RNs in that same period!
This revolving door robs patients of experienced care and saddles experienced RNs with the unsustainable burden of simultaneously being responsible for saving lives while training new staff around-the-clock. Failure to retain nurses has lead to problems such as longer wait times, cancelled or postponed procedures for patients and closed beds in the Intensive Care Unit. In fact, nurses report that short staffing means patients are routinely moved out of the ICU before they’re ready in order to make room for patients who are in worse shape.
“There’s just so many problems that are caused by not retaining experienced nurses; it really creates a domino effect,” Vien Ky, an RN at LAC+USC said following the vote. “We are calling on County leaders to open their eyes. They need to stop playing with peoples’ lives and putting patients in danger. LA County residents deserve hospitals that are ready to take care of them and their loved ones whenever tragedy strikes or the unthinkable happens and that’s why we’re going to keep fighting.”