Nurses’ conditions are cured
Local union secures renewed contract for better working conditions and wages.
May 24, 2022
A small crowd of nurses in blue uniforms cheer loudly for the honking cars passing by. “Our working conditions are your care conditions,” their signs read.
The past month has been an especially strenuous time for nurses at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospitals. The nurses secured a new contract for better conditions after a week of going on strike, on May 3.
Nurses from the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement planned the strike after the hospitals were unable to come to agreements on several contracts. CRONA reported that 93% of about 5,000 nurses voted for the strike.
According to Fred Taleghani, a member of the union’s negotiations team, a Pediatric Critical Care Transport Nurse for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and the father of a Gunn alumnus, his family’s connection to the nursing union made the strike important to them.
“I started in 1999, so I’ve been there 23 years and growing,” Taleghani said. “My wife also is a CRONA nurse, so when we talk about the impacts of a strike, it did affect our household doubly, basically. And she started roughly the same time I did there.”
Taleghani said that the biggest issue that prompted the strike was that staffing at the hospital suffered since the nurses were discouraged by low wages and tough working conditions.
“You’re gonna have to work night shift, you’re gonna have to work weekends, you’re gonna have to work holidays,” Taleghani said. He added that two new buildings at Packard Hospital are running at two-thirds capacity — not because of a lack in patients or funding — simply because of a lack in nursing staff.
The cost of living is driving away potential recruits, he said, as workers who would normally commute from across the bay have begun finding work closer to where they live.
Some nurses receive texts every four hours requesting them to come in to work on their days off, which makes it hard to enjoy time away from work.”
— Kathy Stormberg
“They’re [nurses are] getting that experience and then they’re saying, ‘I might make a little bit less, I’m not going to certainly make as much but I don’t have to sit my car for four hours, so maybe I’ll just get a job in Stockton at one of the hospitals there,’” Taleghani said.
CRONA nurses also went on strike for better retiree medical plans. According to Taleghani, the hospitals currently cover medical care for five years after retirement and then require retirees to pay out of pocket from then on.
Kathy Stormberg, president of CRONA, said that nurses are burdened with work even on their days off.
“Some nurses receive texts every four hours requesting them to come in to work on their days off, which makes it hard to enjoy time away from work,” Stormberg said.
She added that the improvement of mental health programs for nurses is an important goal they are working toward.
“That [mental health] was brought into sharp focus for us after the apparent suicide of Stanford ICU travel nurse Michael Odell,” Stormberg said. Nurses reported that wait times for mental health counseling could be between six weeks to two months or more, and others reported that therapists stopped accepting new patients.
However, Stormberg said that the new contract that came just a week after their strike began, was a huge win for the union.
“CRONA achieved gains in every area where we sought improvement,” she said. “We believe our new contracts will help to make the nursing profession more sustainable.”
In the future, she said the contracts still have room to improve and that the union will look to secure better conditions for its nurses.
“That [our next focus] includes having input in the revamping of the Employee Assistance Program for mental health and reviewing staffing at both hospitals,” Stormberg said.