St. Francis Nurses Vote to Strike for Patient Safety

August 2011

Lynwood, CA – The Registered Nurses at St. Francis Medical Center served the hospital this morning with notice of a three-day strike, from Monday, September 12 at 6:45 AM through Thursday, September 15 at 6:45 AM. The nurses voted overwhelmingly yesterday— 98%—for the strike, after months of negotiations for a new contract in which they sought guarantees for safer staffing to improve patient care. SFMC has one of the only Emergency Rooms in South Los Angeles and has seen a huge increase in patients since closure of the troubled ER at MLK Jr. Hospital. Management has held steadfast against its nurses’ pleas for more staffing to protect the increased influx of vulnerable patients.

"Last Saturday night alone we were short-staffed to handle multiple gunshot and stabbing wound victims that came into the ER,” said Scott Byington, RN, CCRN.

“We ask that they provide an environment for safe, patient-centered care,” said Sandi Marques, RN, BSN, MBA, and President of the St. Francis Registered Nurses Association (SFRNA), the nurses’ union. “We’ve come to the table ready to collaborate, and management has not. I don’t take this strike lightly. I spent part of my childhood in Lynwood and have worked at this hospital for 26 years. This is my community.”

Irma Cruz, an ICU nurse, said, “We have exhausted all humanly possible means to resolve issues such as safe staffing with management. I have invested the last 20 years with this hospital. They clearly don’t abide by the core values they talk about.”

California Assemblymember Isadore Hall, who represents Lynwood and surrounding communities in the state capitol, said, “St. Francis is where I receive my health care, so I know just how important the nurses are to the community. They don’t want to strike. But they have to do what they must to protect the residents of our district and their own families. I stand completely with them in their struggle.”

Also in contention is the fate of the nurses’ pension. During negotiations it came to light that the nurses’ pension plan is severely underfunded. As a church plan, the St. Francis pension is not governed by ERISA guidelines and not protected by federal pension insurance. At the bargaining table the nurses proposed a plan to fund the pension gradually over 10 years, but management is unwilling to guarantee that the pension will be there for the nurses when they retire after decades of caring for patients at hospital. Approximately fifty percent of the St. Francis RNs have worked at the facility for more than ten years.

“I always thought I’d be independent,” said Maria Rosas, a Medical-Surgical Nurse at SFMC for 30 years. “If I lose my pension, I will lose my independence. I don’t want to be a burden to the state nor my children.”