Stanford nurses rallied in front of Stanford University Medical Center for fairer nursing contracts Wednesday morning.
The demonstration comes as the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA) enters its final month of scheduled negotiations with Stanford Health Care before the expiration of current nursing contracts on March 31. CRONA, which represents nearly 5,000 nurses across Stanford Hospital and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, launched its campaign for fairer nursing contracts on Feb. 2.
The rally drew a crowd of nurses and community members who lined up alongside Welch Road holding signs with various slogans, including “Our Working Conditions are Your Care Conditions” and “CRONA Needs a Fair Contract Now.” Attendees clapped and cheered at passing cars, who honked their horns in support.
The purpose of the rally, according to Stanford registered nurse Chiyieko Saknus, was to both demonstrate nurse unity and to show hospitals that nurses were taking the negotiations “very seriously.” Sankus, who held a sign reading “Proud to Care for Your Families, Now Fighting For Our Own,” said that she hoped that the rally would convey the importance of the negotiations to families.
“We are very proud to take care of the families we take care of,” Saknus said. “We have to care for our families too, and we are fighting for things like mental health so that we can come and bring our best selves.”
CRONA has consistently called for increased mental health support from hospitals amid a growing pattern of burnout and overwork across the healthcare industry that has only been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a CRONA representative, Stanford hospitals have rejected numerous proposals from the group aimed at alleviating the burden on nurses, including a request for increased access to vacation time and paid time off. Hospitals have also resisted providing increased training on “recognizing and confronting implicit bias” and increasing workplace protections to the extent that CRONA would prefer, the union says.
School of Medicine spokesperson Julie Greicius affirmed Stanford Health Care’s commitment to supporting nurses in a statement to The Daily, writing that the hospitals have “offered proposals that increase our investment and preserve their place among the highest compensated and best supported nursing teams in America.”
The perceived disconnect between Stanford Health Care and CRONA has been a continued source of exasperation among nurses. Stanford clinical nurse Mark O’Neill expressed frustration with what he sees as a push from the hospitals to make it more difficult for nurses to take time away from work — a position that he said harms nurses’ well-being.
“I’m a little bit disappointed they’re not more aware of how hard we work for them,” O’Neill said.
The union’s focus, according to Stanford registered nurse and CRONA vice president Kathy Stormberg, is to ultimately make Stanford Health Care a desirable location for nurses. Stormberg cited a CRONA survey that indicated that more than 40% of Stanford nurses have considered leaving the hospitals within the next five years. Securing key victories during negotiations would help with retention of these nurses and even attract additional nurses, Stormberg said.
“We want to give this hospital a reputation as a place that people want to come to,” she said.
Stormberg acknowledged the possibility that negotiations could continue past the contract expiration deadline, but affirmed CRONA’s commitment to securing fair contracts before March 31.
“We are doing everything we can,” Stormberg said.
Greicius also asserted Stanford Health Care’s commitment to “good faith negotiations with CRONA,” writing that the hospitals would maintain “focus on the work ahead at the bargaining table.”
Stanford registered nurse Helina Yilma emphasized the potential larger impact of CRONA’s negotiations and its ability to ensure that nurses at other hospitals can fight to secure fair working conditions as well.
“We are fighting not just for nurses at Stanford,” Yilma said. “We are setting a precedent.”