Uploaded: Thursday, June 22, 2000 3:30 PM

Hospitals, nurses still talking as strike continues

by Don Kazak

Mediated contract talks between administrators and striking nurses at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's hospitals continued today, the 16th day of the walkout.

No new details of the talks emerged, as the two sides honored an agreement not to discuss publicly the specifics of their negotiations.

A marathon bargaining session lasted nearly 15 hours Tuesday and was followed by an all-day session Wednesday. Talks resumed this morning.

"They made some progress last night," union spokeswoman Kim Griffin said this morning.

The two sides are negotiating salaries, health benefits, staffing, overtime and other issues. The strike began June 7.

The hospitals have hired about 500 replacement nurses to staff the hospitals along with nurse managers in lieu of the union's 1,730 nurses. A few of the union nurses have returned to work.

Meanwhile, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office has told the hospitals they cannot compel picketing nurses to move away from hospital doorways. Deputy District Attorney Neal Kimball said in a June 20 letter to the hospitals' and union's lawyers that the nurses have the right to picket in front of hospital doors.

"In the early days of the strike, the nurses were right up against the doors and making a lot of noise," said Melodie Jackson, Stanford Hospital spokeswoman. "We got patient complaints, and we asked the police department to move them back away from the doors."

The police referred hospital officials to the district attorney's office, Jackson said.

"Noise is no longer an issue," Jackson said. But she disagreed with a press release from the union, the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement, that claimed the hospitals had tried to have striking nurses arrested. "That's ridiculous," Jackson said.

"It was the hospital that wanted the DA's office to have us arrested," Griffin said.

"I believe that California state labor policy exempts peaceful strike picketing at the job site from trespass laws," Kimball wrote in his letter.