Court issues injunction barring nurses' union strike against UC medical centers; second time court blocks union's strike against UC
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter J. Busch today (June 18) issued a preliminary injunction barring the California Nurses Association from striking University of California medical centers, holding that there is "reasonable cause" for the Public Employment Relations Board to believe that a strike would violate state labor laws. The injunction prohibits CNA from striking UC until Sept. 30, 2010, when the current UC-CNA contract expires, or the expiration of the post-impasse proceedings, whichever is later. The injunction follows a temporary restraining order Busch issued June 8 blocking CNA from conducting a one-day strike at UC's five medical centers planned for June 10. UC officials commended the judge's decision, and noted that preparing for a possible strike had already cost the university more than $8.4 million, most of which is non-refundable. "We're very pleased this threat to public health has been stopped," said Gayle Saxton, UC's director of labor relations. "We hope CNA gets the message and turns its attention to fostering productive labor-management relations and conducting expedient contract negotiations."
Contract negotiations between UC and CNA are now in their early stages.
UC had appealed to the Public Employment Relations Board, the state labor board that oversees public sector collective bargaining, that CNA's planned June 10 strike was unlawful and violated the contract provision. UC also said CNA's actions constituted bad faith bargaining and jeopardized the health and safety of patients. PERB concurred, and sought the temporary restraining order issued June 8.
This is not the first time a court has blocked a CNA strike attempt against UC. In 2005, CNA threatened to strike UC medical centers but was barred from doing so by a court order on the grounds of public health and safety. Additionally, PERB recently ruled that CNA's 2005 strike threat constituted an unfair practice and a hearing has been ordered to determine the extent of the union's financial liability for the costs UC incurred in preparing for that strike. In threatening to strike, CNA asserted that nurse understaffing at UC medical centers is threatening patient care and safety. Saxton said the union's allegations are baseless. "UC medical centers are world-renowned for their quality of care, and they are consistently rated among the best in the country for patient care and satisfaction by outside agencies and regulatory commissions," said Saxton. "Contrary to CNA's assertions, we meet - and in some instances exceed - state-mandated staffing ratios, and a neutral third-party mediator recently concluded that the labor-management process mandated by our current contract with CNA adequately addresses staffing issues." CNA represents approximately 10,800 UC nurses systemwide.