Santa Clara County nurses start 3-day strike Tuesday

For the first time, nearly 4,000 nurses at Santa Clara County hospitals will strike starting Tuesday morning. Nurses are planning a 3-day strike which they say is about patient safety and unfair labor practices.

Union board members say their contract expired five months ago. Now they say patient safety, workplace violence and staffing ratios led them to the first nursing strike in Santa Clara County history.

"Santa Clara County is the 2nd largest county in California. Almost 4,000 nurses are here, and we need some change. That’s why this strike is happening," said Milae Tol, a Nurse at O’Connor Hospital. 

At headquarters on Monday, union members and volunteers for the Registered Nurses Professional Association were preparing for a 3-day strike at three of the county’s hospitals: Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, O’Connor, and St. Louise Regional Hospitals.

Starting Tuesday, about 3,800 nurses at Santa Clara County hospitals and facilities will strike until early Friday morning. Nurses like union board member Milae Tol say they’re being asked to perform work practices at multiple hospitals that may put patients and nurses at risk.  

"Some of them are spinal cord injury ICUs. That’s a different technique for turning a patient than it is at the ICU that I’m familiar with. I’m not saying I can’t do it, but I would need the proper training," said Tol. 

RNPA board members say county nurses have been working without a contract since late October of last year. Santa Clara County says most nurses received a 13.3% raise just last year, and that moving nurses to different locations is a temporary solution. Though increased wages are a part of negotiations, nurses say concerns about violent patients, a lack of security and increased patient-to-nurse ratios, are why they voted to strike.

"When we have a nurse for two patients, she or he can manage that. But once we go from one nurse to five patients, if you have two or more patients pop off their vent (ventilator), it’s a very bad situation," said Amy English, a RNPA board member and Nurse at O’Connor Hospital. 

The county also says it has taken safety measures for patients and staff ahead of this week's strike and is ready to continue negotiations. To read the entire statement from Santa Clara County, click here.