Sharp RNs Deliver Ten Day Strike Notice

November 2016

PRESS RELEASE: Sharp RNs Deliver Ten Day Strike Notice

Sharp Management Violates Federal Labor Law and Refuses to Invest in Nurses to Reverse an Escalating Patient Care Crisis at Sharp

SAN DIEGO— Sharp HealthCare’s registered nurses this morning sent management a ten-day notice of intent to strike beginning the Monday after Thanksgiving, November 28. The strike comes in response to Sharp’s repeated violations of federal labor law and refusal to address patient care problems caused by an escalating crisis in nurse turnover.

Earlier this month the members of Sharp Professional Nurses Network (SPNN) overwhelmingly voted to reject management's so-called "last, best and final offer" and authorize an unfair labor practice strike. SPNN represents almost 5,000 registered nurses at Sharp, the largest health care system—providing more than one-third of health care services—in San Diego County, the second largest county in the state. This will be the largest strike of registered nurses in California this year, and the second largest strike of any kind in the nation (behind the Communication Workers of America strike).

The nurses maintain that management’s declaration of impasse and unilateral implementation of its final proposal, announced on October 28, were illegal, in part because the parties were still bargaining and each session saw movement from one or both sides. The nurses have filed unfair labor practice charges (ULPs) with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over the violations. Other ULP charges filed include unlawful surveillance, threats and interrogation against the nurses by management.

“We feel like we’re voices crying in the wilderness and Sharp refuses to hear us,” said Christina Magnusen, RN, an eight-year nurse in Sharp Grossmont’s Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) and SPNN’s President. “Their illegal declaration of impasse is another example of that. The crazy thing is they even admitted to a roomful of nurses in negotiations on October 14 that they have a turnover problem. In public they try to paint this rosy picture, but the numbers tell the story. Sharp’s on track to lose 700 nurses in 2016, up from 605 last year and 514 the year before that. How can they keep denying it?”

“To continue to lose well-trained nurses compromises patient care,” said Denise Duncan, RN, President of United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP). The problem is worst in Sharp’s critical care units like the Emergency Departments, ICUs and Labor & Delivery. The San Diego community deserves to be cared for by well-trained, experienced nurses, because continuity is critical to patient safety.”

“I’m in the Emergency Department at Sharp Chula Vista,” said Samantha Ciechanowicz, RN. “I can think of 25 nurses we’ve lost in the last year. That’s about two per month and it’s a real concern. Industry-wide it’s rare for nurses with less than one year to be assigned to the ED, but we have nurses with seven months’ experience training new grads. The ED moves so fast and there’s so much to learn, it took me three years before I felt truly comfortable.”

“In Labor & Delivery we’ve lost 80 RNs in two years,” said Alana Lawler, RN, at Sharp Mary Birch with fifteen years’ experience. “I have seen excellent, experienced nurses leaving at rates that far exceed my first decade at Sharp. Most shifts we’re understaffed.”  We’re asked to take care of multiple high risk patients and somehow make it work. Somehow, because I love what I do, I balanced care so that I was there for them every moment they needed.”

“Sharp will lose $50 million in nurse turnover costs this year,” said Jackie Young, RN, Memorial ER, with 23 years’ experience at Sharp. “It would be cheaper for Sharp to invest in retaining experienced nurses instead of this constant churn of new nurses who come in, stay for two years, then leave. Their margin for the first eleven months of 2016 is more than $388 million, so they can afford to fix this problem right now. Instead they mask it with escalating overtime, escalating use of travelers, or agency nurses, and escalating incidents of missed meals and rest breaks.”

Sharp’s RN turnover comes from falling farther and farther behind the wage scales of comparable health care systems in San Diego. Sharp maintains their wages are average, but a comparison of wage grids between Sharp and hospitals like Kaiser and UCSD reveals a huge discrepancy in pay. On the Kaiser RN wage grid a two-year nurse makes $52.20 per hour. On UCSD’s grid a nurse can reach $52.58 after only eight years’ experience. A nurse would have to work at Sharp for 22 years—two decades longer than at Kaiser—to reach $52.20 per hour.

“Sharp says we rejected a 26% raise. Flat out not true,” said Magnusen. “Only a quarter of the nurses could get that raise, at most. It’s subject to management favoritism. Some nurses could actually see pay cuts under that proposal. And raises gained one year could be taken away the next. Clearly, it’s not going to recruit and retain strong nurses.”

“Why should the public care how much we make?” Magnusen continued. “Because pay is linked to retention, and retention is linked to quality care. If this were just about money for us, we would have left Sharp years ago. We’re the ones who stayed. We want to fix this.”

The ten-day notice informed Sharp that the nurses will strike for three days, beginning at 7:00 AM on Monday, November 28 and continuing through Wednesday, November 30. The Sharp RNs intend to return to work on Thursday morning, December 1, for their 7:30 AM shifts.

Contact: Jeff Rogers, Communications Specialist
Jeff.Rogers@unacuhcp.org | 909-263-7230