St. Joseph Hospital nurses voted last week to authorize a strike -- but that doesn't mean they're about to strike. It means they've handed their nurse representatives a big cudgel to raise high in threat above the bargaining table where they've sat for weeks haggling with hospital administration over their new contract.
"It's used as a tool to move things along at the table," said registered nurse Kathryn Donahue. "If the issues are not addressed to our satisfaction, the nurses at the table can give a 10-day notice of a strike."
Donahue is the local shop steward for the California Nurses Association, one of the unions that represents nurses within the St. Joseph Hospital System. Last month, hundreds of nurses picketed outside several St. Joseph hospitals in northern California, calling attention to a slew of issues they have with staffing that they allege compromise patient safety.
Donahue said 75 percent of the bargaining unit - the nurses represented by the union -- voted last week, and 98 percent of them voted "yes" to authorizing the strike. There are no bargaining dates this month; the next time the two sides meet at the table will be May, when there are six dates set for negotiations. So, said Donahue, May is probably the soonest that anything will happen.