Workers say 5-day hospital strike in Alameda County is not about pay

A five-day strike got underway Wednesday morning in Alameda County. On the picket lines: Nurses at the county's public hospitals, including Highland. 

It's not about pay. 

The nurses and other workers on strike, say they're on the picket lines because they say they are concerned about their safety - and the safety of their patients - during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And they say they don't trust the current management of the county's public hospital system.

Early Wednesday, there were more than 100 people on the picket line outside Highland Hospital. Altogether, there are about 3,000 people taking part in this strike - not just nurses but basically, everyone who works in this hospital besides the doctors - administrative staff, people who work in billing, food service workers and house-keepers.

The nurses on strike want the Alameda County board of supervisors to take over from the volunteer board of trustees that currently oversees the hospitals in the Alameda Health Services system. 

Nurses say the trustees have made dangerous cuts to COVID-19 safety and cleaning procedures, and the nurses also want to see a lower nurse-to-patient ratio.

"We want the board of supervisors to come back into this medical facility," said Derrick Boutte, a Highland environmental service worker. "We're here to make sure the right things are being done on a consistent basis."

In response, Alameda Health Services sent a statement saying they will still be able to provide for patients during this strike: "While we are disappointed that the unions called this strike at a time when there are already extraordinary strains on healthcare providers, we encourage them to return to the bargaining table, where we can resolve our differences." 

Highland Hospital, Alameda,  John George Psychiatric and all Alameda County public hospitals are impacted by this strike.