Palomar Health workers in California authorize strike

Registered nurses and caregivers at Palomar Health in Escondido and Poway, Calif., have voted to authorize a strike, according to the unions that represent them.

The California Nurses Association, an affiliate of National Nurses United, represents about 1,300 registered nurses at Palomar Health hospitals. The Caregivers and Healthcare Employees Union, an affiliate of CNA, represents about 1,700 ancillary caregivers.

Their members voted by 96 percent on June 7 and 8 to authorize their bargaining team to call a strike, the unions said in a news release.

The vote does not mean a strike will take place. However, it allows the unions to call a strike.

"Going on strike is a last-resort effort. RNs and caregivers have been negotiating with the intent to have a fair contract and unfortunately Palomar Health has violated our rights by engaging in unfair labor practices that include bargaining in bad faith, surveilling, intimidating and retaliating against union members who speak out against the injustices we are facing," home health nurse Glynn Cascolan, RN, said in the release. "As patient advocates, we understand that our labor rights and our union help us protect our patients and speak out about problems without fear of retaliation."

Union representatives also contend Palomar Health has not met workers' demands for a contract that protects them and patients and attracts and retains top workforce talent. 

In a statement shared with Becker's, Palomar Health Chief Human Resources Officer Geoff Washburn said: "We have not received a strike notice. Further, we continue and remain consistent in our efforts to have further conversations to resolve this union contract in a way that is mutually beneficial for all parties.

"We are confused and surprised by the unions' reported results because every indication we have had from nurses and caregivers has been overwhelmingly positive."

Diane Hansen, president and CEO of Palomar Health, said, "Our world-class staff are excited about what is going on at Palomar Health and remain dedicated to their patients. We want our employees to know how much we value and support them regardless of the outcome. We are going to remain focused on our primary mission, which is to provide San Diego County and the community extraordinary healthcare and services."

No strike had been scheduled as of June 9. Negotiations have been ongoing for more than a year. 

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