OAKLAND (CBS/BCN/AP) – Hundreds of nurses at Children’s Hospital in Oakland began a three-day strike Tuesday morning but the hospital remains open, staffed by skilled pediatric replacement nurses from across the country, hospital spokeswoman Erin Goldsmith said.

“Everything at the hospital is going just fine,” Goldsmith said.

She said 125 replacement nurses began working with hospital staff Monday in preparation for the strike. Tuesday they are working under the supervision of 50 to 60 managing nurses who are not represented by the California Nurses Association, the union representing the striking nurses.

The nurses were protesting proposed health care benefit hikes that force them to pay more for their coverage.  Goldsmith told the San Francisco Chronicle the average annual salary for a registered nurse at Children’s Hospital is $136,000.

Some elective surgeries have been rescheduled, but otherwise operations at the hospital remain the same and the trauma center and emergency department remain open, Goldsmith said.

Martha Kuhl, a registered nurse who has worked at Children’s Hospital for more than 28 years, said 780 nurses were honoring the picket line Tuesday.

“We’re sad to have to be out here,” Kuhl said.

She said she did not believe that the replacement nurses, also referred to as strike-breakers, had received adequate orientation, but as a safeguard, the striking nurses have formed a patient protection committee so that if there is an emergency, the hospital can call them back to work.

She said the nurses did not want patient care to be impacted by the strike.

The nurses have been trying to negotiate a new contract since before their old contract expired July 13, Kuhl said. Since mid-May, they have had 27 bargaining sessions, but have been unable to reach an agreement, Kuhl said.

A federal mediator worked with the hospital and the union through September to try to resolve the contract dispute, but still no agreement was reached, Goldsmith said.

According to Kuhl, who is one of the negotiators for the union, the problem is that the hospital’s management wants to reduce employee health care benefits, making it too expensive for nurses to have their families treated at Children’s Hospital.

“We’re in the business of health care and we deserve health care ourselves,” Kuhl said.

She said the nurses have offered to take a wage freeze in exchange for keeping health care benefits the same as they were in the previous contract, but the hospital management has reportedly not responded to the offer.

Goldsmith, however, maintained that the union had refused to even look at the hospital’s counter-offer because it didn’t include changes in earlier health care benefit offers.

Both sides said that they remain open to negotiation and would like to return to the bargaining table.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. TheAssociated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.)

Comments (13)
  1. Christina says:

    11 years ago I had my child at this hospital. These nurses have no right to strike. There was one lady she was the worst ever. She had fake long finger nails that left 3 marks in my childs legs and he was only 4 lbs. This hospital is suppose to be the best. NO! When I looked there was a sweet little baby in a plastic closed in bed. The baby was stuck in between the wall and the bed. I let the nurse know and she said she would get to it in a minute. I said no you get to it now. The worst I have even encountered. I would never recoment having any child there.

  2. TIme for Caring says:

    $136,000 per year?????????????? Must be nice and they are on strike….that is why they have to take the HYPOCRITICAL OATH…..they don’t care about saving human lives and all the rest of that baloney……all that matters to MOST of them, NOT ALL OF THEM, is the STINKING PAYCHECK……MONEY MONEY MONEY……THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL…..nuff said….

  3. M.G. says:

    I sure hope that CBS5 is reading these posts. JOHN and SIDNEY were the only reason to watch CBS5 in the morning. Now it’s the MOURNING in the MORNING. They should have

  4. Bob says:

    Time for caring if you are jealous of the pay then go to school and get a job there,then you can see the little children that are victims of gunshots,rapes,child abuse and all the other horrible things these nurses deal with daily,in other words don’t open you’re mouth until you have walked in there shoes

    1. Time for Caring says:

      Bob, I DO…..I just don’t go around striking every time I don’t get my way….I have dedicated my life to helping others and it is terrible at times….so BOB…before you go shooting off YOUR yap, you had better know who you are talking to…..I HAVE been there…FOR 46 YEARS NOW ..I have seen lots of blood and broken hearts…..I have seen it all….I just hate it when these spoiled people always have to take it out on the patients with their strikes etc…..sorry, I was trained that the PATIENT comes first NOT MYSELF……and also perfect Bob, I believe it is opoen YOUR mouth instead of what you wrote as open YOU’RE mouth….and while we are at it……walked in THERE shoes…..maybe next time try writing walked in THEIR shoes…..Keep slamming Bob but be sure you do it the correct way next time, old buddy

    2. SD says:

      Hi Bob,
      I see where you are coming from. The health care personnel face incredibly draining and ethical situations more than the rest of the world. My reaction to your advice to go to nursing school, though…well..I guess I would like to relay a warning. Unfortunately, there are NO jobs for new grads! I graduated in 2009 (at the top of my class and passed the NCLEX in 75 questions first time around) and I am one of many with the same qualifications who have had such terrible luck finding a job. I am even taking some graduate courses now, but can’t any longer because I need at least a year of experience to get into the graduate program. Most of my classmates are turning to Starbucks, etc to start paying off their loans. I see that $136K salary and begin to wonder…I would take that job for less than half without benefits right now…just for the experience! But then, there is always two sides to a story, right?
      For those of you who want to listen to Bob’s advice and go to nursing school. It is HARD and very competitive! Like most of my fellow classmates, you will have NO LIFE during school and no job after you graduate. Please do your research and look on the nursing chat groups – that wonderful $136K salary is not a common reality for most nurses. These higher paying nurses have been doing this for a very long time, are skilled at what they do and are probably being utilized for their ability to safely handle more patients at a time. This is a huge risk for these nurses as far as their nursing licenses go. However, given the economy, this is what all Hospitals must resort to in order to be cost effective and provide sufficient care.
      For those of you who have had bad experiences with one or two nurses, this does not mean that ALL of them are like that. The temps that are in there now may be experienced in some way, but are inexperienced with how this hospital is run and may not be all that familiar with pediatrics. They are still learning where things are, what the protocols are, etc. This may seem really small, but in an emergency this can be life threatening. For the sake of the pediatric patients, I hope the nurses will come to an agreement soon. I also hope that these nurses will find a way to accept the realities of this economy and be grateful that they have a job as a nurse. Perhaps the benefit hike could be temporary until the economy starts getting better? As for me, I will keep looking for a job. Till then, l will learn from those who voice why their experiences with nurses have been so negative and try to avoid making the same mistakes. Like most of the nurses out there, I just want to help.

  5. SUPPORT CHORN says:

    Where on earth do they get their source that the nurses get $136,000? That is straight BS! Some of the nurses there stay over without getting PAID!!!!!

  6. Bob says:

    Time for caring I hate internet chat as this is my first time ever posting so I am sorry about the spelling but I so wish that it would be possible to meet face to face with you to discuss this further but I know you would probably not be up for that

  7. Bob says:

    SD I’m sorry that you can’t find a job yet I’m sure you will find one soon but seeing how you just graduated you have not been around long enough to know what these nurses have had to go through to get the wages and benefits they currently have and if they give now they will never get it back because once a company takes away they never give back they just keep taking and when the economy is good the CEO gets the big pay.

  8. Miriam says:

    First and Foremost you should do your homework before you speak on an issue that you have only read about today. Childrens Hospital made 300,000 million dollars last year and the loss they are reporting can be traced back to miss managing of funds by the last CEO who was let go last year. The nurses who ear 136,000 a year work about 20-30 hours of overtime a month, The average salary is about 60,00 to 80,000 a year, and that is with working weekends, and nights.

  9. miriam says:

    Second, of all Childrens Hospital Nurses are ranked 10th in salaries for the bay area,. which if you dont know what that means, it means they are one of the lowest paid. I know that if I want someone to take care of my child I want the best, and most experienced especially if my child is at

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