The union that represents all registered nurses at Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford has voted to give the union's executive team the ability to call a strike if its ongoing negotiations with the health system don't reach an agreement.
Of the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA)'s roughly 3,700 members, 85% voted to authorize a strike, the union said Thursday, exceeding the two-thirds vote necessary for the motion to pass. The vote does not mean a strike is happening, but it gives the union's leadership the ability to call one if it deems the move necessary.
"It is not our goal to go on strike, it is to get a package we believe will attract new nurses and keep the nurses currently in the hospitals," CRONA President Colleen Borges told reporters. "Our next goal is to continue to work with the hospitals to get a competitive and fair package."
If CRONA calls a strike, it would need to give the hospitals 10 days notice. The union's contract expired March 31, and negotiations began in early January. The goal is always to have an agreement in place before the existing contract expires, but Borges said in an interview that's never happened between CRONA and Stanford.
Although a strike is not definite, Borges said having the ability to call one will hopefully move the negotiations with Stanford forward.
"Getting a 'yes' vote solidifies to the union membership that we are united and it shows the hospital that we are united and that the contract terms we are seeking are supported by the membership," said Borges, who said she has been a pediatric oncology nurse at Lucile Packard for nearly 25 years.
In a statement, Stanford Health Care and Stanford Children's Health said it remains committed to good-faith bargaining. The statement said the health system has proposed a "highly competitive compensation package" with "market-leading wages."
The statement went on to say that the nurse turnover rate at Stanford Health Care and Stanford Children's Health was 9.8% and 8.4%, respectively, in 2018, compared with a national average of 15.1% and a regional average of 12.3%, according to data from the consultancy Advisory Board. Stanford also said it recruits nurses faster than Advisory Board's national benchmark.
"Given the progress we have made by working constructively with the union, we remain optimistic that an agreement will be reached 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," the statement said.
While CRONA and Stanford Health Care have made progress in their negotiations, a number of items are still in dispute. Here are some of CRONA's demands the union said Stanford has declined to support, according to Borges:
- The guaranteed right for a nurse to be reassigned to a different unit—staffing permitted—if they were assaulted or threatened by patients.
- Allowing nurses to use extended sick leave to cover the three-day waiting period for worker's compensation.
- Pay nurses $100 per pay period for specialty skill certifications, instead of the current, one-time incentive payment.
- Keep the requirement in place that when part-time nursing positions are vacated, those positions be reposted as the same shift and commitment. This is to retain a sufficient number of part-time positions, which CRONA says allow desired flexibility for nurses.
- Limit travel time to 30 miles between sites nurses could be assigned to work at.
- Nurses that agree to take preceptor roles, those in which they teach other nurses, should be allowed to do so voluntarily, so that they are not permanent positions.
Stanford Health Care did not respond when asked for comment on specific proposals.
CRONA most recently went on strike in 2000. It lasted 52 days, which at that time was the longest nurses strike in California's history.