Tenet hospital workers authorize strike in California

Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers have authorized a strike at Fountain Valley (Calif.) Regional Hospital and Medical Center.

The union represents about 1,500 people who work directly for Fountain Valley Regional, including about 850 registered nurses and professionals who authorized the strike. The union also represents hundreds of employees of Compass Group, a food and support services provider, who work at California hospitals in Fountain Valley, Los Alamitos and Lakewood. Fountain Valley Regional is part of Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare. Compass employees are subcontracted by Tenet, and Compass negotiates with the union on behalf of those workers.

Union members who authorized the strike have been in negotiations with hospital management since June, according to an Oct. 21 union news release shared with Becker's. Union members said they seek a contract that addresses what they described as urgent short-staffing and safety issues, as well as the need for up-to-date, fully operational equipment. Between June and August, workers at the hospital have filed 158 complaints with the state over safety concerns.

"When our hospital is understaffed, registered nurses are stretched so thin that it becomes impossible to give the quality of care we believe is necessary. We choose to work in healthcare because we care about the well-being of our communities, and it's time Tenet supports us in that effort," Maggie Desierto, RN, said in the union news release.

A strike authorization vote does not mean a strike will occur but gives the union the option of calling one. The National Union of Healthcare Workers said a strike could begin as early as next month if an agreement is not reached, although no strike date has been set. Negotiations are scheduled to resume Oct. 25.

Representatives with Tenet could not be reached for comment Oct. 21 by The Orange County Register. Becker's has reached out to Tenet and will update the story if a comment is received. 

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