Nurses at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital held a one-day strike and rally Wednesday, Sept. 6, claiming management’s failure to retain and recruit enough nurses has left them overworked and compromised patient care.
The workers, represented by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, have been in negotiations since February for a new contract and say there has been little to no movement on key issues. Their labor agreement expired March 1.
See more: Who’s on strike? Labor disputes, walkouts, protests are rampant throughout Southern California
“Cedars-Sinai management is driving nurses away from our hospital faster than they can hire them,” said Sophia Sabido, a registered nurse and case manager in the hospital’s ER department. “We’re striking because enough is enough.”
The Marina del Rey Hospital is the only Cedars facility that’s unionized, and nurses say management is looking to diminish their bargaining rights.
“They’re trying to decrease our vacation time, sick time and education hours,” Sabido said. “It’s a tactic to make us lose our voice.”
A union official said 250 of the hospital’s 300 nurses are represented by CNA/NNU, while the rest are travel nurses who have been brought in to help fill gaps in staffing.
“A lot of times the contract nurses make more than their staff counterparts,” said Matthew Booe, another registered nurse at the hospital. “Travel nurses were essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. But ultimately, you have to pay your staff well. It really feels like they’re trying to break our union.”
In a statement released Wednesday, Cedars said it had hoped to avoid a strike with “highly competitive contract offers” that reward the skill and dedication of nurses while securing their long-term future as the hospital grows.
“We have already reached agreement on many mutually important topics,” management said. “We are dedicated to the safety and well-being of our employees, patients and the community.”
Nurses say Cedars wants to base wage increases on employee evaluations as opposed to setting pre-determined, annual pay hikes. The starting wage for nurses is around $45, the union said.
“They want to remove our ability to bargain over wages,” Booe said. “That isn’t fair because they could say they’re not giving out raises based on budgetary conditions, or maybe they’ll just decide not to give you a raise.”
Sabido has had first-hand experience with inadequate staffing.
“I took a trip to San Diego, and when I returned three of our four case managers were gone, leaving just me,” she said. “I was averaging six, 12-hour shifts a week, and that really increases burnout. And then they bring in travel nurses who don’t know the hospital inside and out like we do.”
Wednesday’s strike wasn’t the first walkout at Cedars.
Nursing assistants, surgical technicians, pharmacists, dietitians, lab assistants and other hospital workers held a five-day strike in December, also claiming they were understaffed and unable to provide adequate patient care.
“Every day, I’m running around doing the jobs of three people,” ER technician Eric Melo said during that walkout. “I’m sure it’s saving Cedars-Sinai money, but it’s hurting patient care.”
Complaints of understaffing have become a common theme at medical facilities throughout Southern California, including Prime Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood, Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital, Kaiser facilities throughout Southern California, West Anaheim Medical Center, and several LA County nursing homes, among others.