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Union Nurses at Two San Gabriel Valley-Area Hospitals Vote to Authorize Unfair Labor Practice Strikes.

June 20, 2023

Nurses cite unsafe staffing due to high turnover and management’s failure to recruit and retain staff.

MONTEREY PARK, CA – Registered nurses represented by the union SEIU 121RN at Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park and Greater El Monte Community Hospital in El Monte voted to authorize strikes late last week. Both hospitals are owned by parent company Alhambra Hospital Medical Center (AHMC).

The nurses say that many of the concerns they have raised with management at their bargaining tables — and which they voiced publicly at informational pickets — still have not been resolved. As their contract negotiations approach their fifth month and Garfield and their fourth month at Greater El Monte, nurses feel they may have no other option but to prepare for a strike.

The votes give authority to the nurses’ respective contract bargaining teams at each hospital to move forward with strikes if they feel that negotiations still are not producing satisfactory results.

Bargaining team members at both hospitals say they were particularly disheartened by management’s inability to make progress on proposals aimed at fixing high turnover that has reached crisis proportions, and which leaves many hospital units below safe staffing levels. Their proposals call for the hospital to incentivize nurses to stay at the hospitals and prevent nurses from leaving the hospitals for better treatment elsewhere. Nurses say that the hospitals unprepared for a future public health crisis, and that they have ignored the epidemic of workplace violence targeting nurses and other hospital employees.

Samantha Alegria, an ER nurse, and member of the bargaining team at Greater El Monte Community Hospital, said that her co-workers are being driven away from the hospital out of fear for their physical safety, and a widely held sentiment that hospital leadership does not support them.

“We’ve tried to tell AHMC that they need to invest in nurses so that they want to stay here, and so that our patients have that experience and stability,” Alegria said. “Nurses are also leaving because of the stress of working in an unsafe environment. We've had machetes brought in, razor blades, baseball bats. We’ve had patients punch our nurses and throw objects at us. We're here to save people, not put our own lives at risk, and management needs to start taking our safety seriously.”

Christina Smith, a Rehab nurse, and member of the bargaining team at Garfield Medical Center, said that high turnover has resulted in decreased morale.

"I'm disappointed that management continues to shortchange the care of our patients by failing to empower us to provide safe, quality care at the bedside,” Smith said. “We want our hospital to be able to recruit and retain enough nurses to cover each unit without having to do the job of two or more people or jeopardize patient care. Our overwhelming workload and lack of resources prevent patients from getting the best care and contribute to low morale."

Through the negotiations process, nurses have tried to address other critical issues which face the hospital.

“Our bargaining team has issued realistic and common-sense proposals to solve an array of problems,” said SEIU 121RN Executive Director Rosanna Mendez. “The employer should commit to bargaining in good faith on these important issues. Seriously addressing issues like physical, emotional and mental exhaustion, critical staffing levels, and future public health emergencies will benefit the entire hospital community.”

Strikes could commence as early as ten days after bargaining team members give the respective hospitals notice — as required by law — raising the possibility of strikes at San Gabriel Valley hospitals during what is shaping up to be a “hot labor summer” — a nationwide wave of strikes involving tens of thousands of union members in several industries. The bargaining teams have not yet formally announced their intentions to strike.

*SEIU Local 121RN represents registered nurses and other healthcare professionals in California. This member-led organization is committed to supporting optimum working conditions that allow nurses to provide quality patient care and safety.*