UPDATE: On Thursday, the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement, which represents nurses at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's hospitals voted to authorize a strike. Read our latest story.
The nurses union for the Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's hospitals has called for a strike vote on Thursday after monthslong negotiations failed to resolve differences regarding a new contract.
The Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA), which represents more than 5,000 nurses at the two hospitals, called for the strike vote now that the nurses are in their fifth day of working without a contract. The two sides have held 30 bargaining sessions in 12 weeks, CRONA said. Union leadership was meeting with a federal labor negotiator on Monday, April 4, to try to resolve the impasse.
The union said that nurses are suffering burnout, particularly related to excessive work and understaffing during the pandemic. They want the hospitals to create competitive benefits that would encourage experienced nurses to stay and that would recruit more nurses. CRONA claims that instead of focusing on solutions that would make nursing sustainable, the Stanford hospitals have taken the position that they need nurses to be "more available" to work and have proposed new health care premiums for plans that are currently free to nurses and their families.
"After months of bargaining, we are disappointed that the hospitals have not agreed to nurses' proposed solutions to address understaffing and burnout, and to improve recruitment and retention," CRONA leadership said in a statement.
Among their demands are: increasing base hourly wages by 7% to 8%; increasing medical retirement benefits; adding stay-on bonuses; offering added payment for critical care nurses who work in high-acuity areas that haven't been able to recruit and retain nurses; retaining the no-cost medical plan for employees, their spouses and their families; and providing mental health and wellness support. They also want a new student loan reimbursement program to allow nurses and the hospitals to take advantage of laws offering favorable tax treatment for some student loans; safer staffing levels; expanded access to their vacation time; and live anti-bias training for managers and nurses on implicit bias.
Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital said in a statement that the hospitals remain committed to good faith bargaining with CRONA to reach new contract agreements that the nurses "can be proud of and support."
"To date, the hospitals have offered proposals that would provide nurses with market-leading wages and further our commitment to enhanced nurse staffing, workplace safety and wellness," the hospitals said.
The hospitals resumed negotiations with CRONA on Monday, with the assistance of the federal mediator and continue to progress toward reaching an agreement, the statement said.
"Based on the union's action of a strike authorization vote, we are taking precautionary and responsible steps to ensure we are able to deliver the same safe, high-quality care our patients and families have come to expect should CRONA call a strike. We remain optimistic that an agreement can be reached, and we can avoid a strike, just as we have been able to do in past negotiations when a strike vote has been called," the hospitals said.
The nurses staged a rally outside of Stanford Hospital on Monday morning.
"We're continuing to push for new, strong contracts that treat nurses as professionals and reward us for all the sacrifices we've made to make Stanford and Packard some of the best health systems in the world. We have cared for thousands of families throughout the pandemic, at the expense of our own physical, mental and social health. It's time for the hospitals to listen to us about what we need and what our families need," Kathy Stormberg, a registered nurse in the radiology department at Stanford Hospital, said in CRONA's statement.