93% of eligible voting nurses across Stanford Hospital and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital voted to authorize the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA) to call a strike, the union announced in a Friday press release shared with The Daily.
The authorization vote provides union leadership with the power to call a strike if they see fit, but it does not mean that a strike has been called, according to CRONA president and registered nurse Colleen Borges.
CRONA has regularly scheduled negotiations with Stanford Health Care every three years, and this is not the first time that negotiations have resulted in a strike authorization vote. In April of 2016, the union prepared to call a strike after 84% of nurses voted in favor of a work stoppage. The possibility of a strike was scuttled after a last-minute agreement between nurses and the hospitals. The threat of a strike loomed again in April of 2019 after another strike vote in which 85% of nurses voted in favor. However, both sides were once again able to come to terms on an agreement.
Stanford Health Care spokesperson Julie Greicius affirmed Stanford Health Care’s commitment to negotiating with CRONA in a statement to The Daily, writing that the hospitals “believe that hard work at the negotiations table is a far better path than a strike to achieving new contracts” for nurses. The hospitals are also taking “the necessary and precautionary steps to prepare for the possibility of a strike” in the event that one occurs, Greicius added.
Union representatives are currently engaged in federally mediated talks with Stanford Health Care, according to Borges, who said that nurses remain committed to negotiating with the hospitals.
For Borges, the vote signifies the strong solidarity that exists among the nurses.
“I think the message sent by the nurses yesterday was clear,” she said during a Friday interview. “The nurses are ready to do whatever action is needed in order to get a fair agreement.”
Stanford Health Care and CRONA remain in disagreement over several issues, according to clinical nurse Mark O’Neill. Specifically, O’Neill highlighted inadequate retirement healthcare benefits and access to mental health care as two key points of continued discussion. He said that it was particularly important for Stanford Health Care to demonstrate “love for nurses after a career in healthcare” through increased retirement benefits and to better nurses’ work-life balance by providing more paid time off, especially given widespread burnout in the nursing profession.
“There’s a lot of proposals that we’re still very focused on that are there to enable nursing to become a more stable career,” O’Neill said. “Because right now it’s really not, and that’s disconcerting to us.”
Stanford Hospital and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital remain focused on reaching an “agreement on new contracts that provide nurses a highly competitive compensation package” as well as proposals “enhancing staffing and wellness benefits for nurses,” Greicius wrote.
“Given the progress we have made by working constructively with the union, we should be able to reach agreements that will allow us to continue to attract and retain the high caliber of nurses who so meaningfully contribute to our hospitals’ reputation for excellence,” she added.
Borges stressed that the impact of the pandemic on nurses has been particularly significant during this round of negotiations. She echoed O’Neill’s concerns around mental health and staffing shortages as critical factors pushing nurses to “ask the union to take action if the hospital is not willing to come to an agreement.”
O’Neill said that he remains optimistic that a strike can be avoided, but only if CRONA receives “sufficient movement” in its negotiations with the hospitals.
“Our goal has always been not to strike,” he said. “But to not strike, the hospitals have to realize that they have to offer a package that deals with a lot of the issues that we’ve proposed to them.”
This article has been updated to reflect that the vote for the strike was announced by the union, not a union representative. The Daily regrets this error.