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Nurse Strike Averted At LA County Hospitals And Clinics

A man stands at a podium outside a hospital. Union nurses stand behind him holding signs.
SEIU 721 Union President David Green announces a contract agreement has been reached between union members and L.A. County.
(Jackie Fortiér
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A strike by thousands of nurses has been averted at four Los Angeles County-run hospitals and multiple clinics after an all-night bargaining session led to a tentative agreement.

Thursday morning, on the steps of LAC + USC Medical Center in Los Angeles, SEIU 721, the union that represents the 7,000 nurses, announced the three-day strike that was scheduled to begin June 1 has been called off.

Cynthia Mitchel has worked at LAC + USC Medical Center for 21 years. She’s a supervising staff nurse in the emergency department and said she was up all night in discussions with the county as a member of the bargaining team.

“I actually feel great. We finished at 7:30 this morning,” Mitchel said. “We were fighting for a better work schedule, which is a 36-hour work schedule. That’s comparable to [other] hospitals.”

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Experienced nurses were leaving in droves, Mitchel said, for more money and better working hours at other hospitals. The new agreement includes a work model that does away with the requirement that county nurses work one 48-hour week every four weeks.

“That fourth shift just burnt us out. We were losing nurses to hospitals that offered that [36-hour] work schedule,” Mitchel said.

A woman stands at a podium, with union members behind her holding signs in support of the union.
Supervising staff nurse Cynthia Mitchel speaks at a press conference in front of LAC+USC Medical Center announcing a new agreement has been reached.
(Jackie Fortiér)

L.A. County wrote in a statement:

Los Angeles County is pleased to have reached tentative agreement with the Service Employees International Union Local 721 bargaining units representing Registered Nurses and Supervising Registered Nurses, averting a possible 3-day strike that had been planned for next week. We have now reached tentative agreements with all SEIU Local 721 bargaining units, and we will now turn our attention to negotiations with the Coalition of County Unions. In all our negotiations, the County’s objective is to reach fair and fiscally responsible agreements that recognize the essential contributions of our valued workforce.

The two sides have been bargaining since May. Over the next few weeks, thousands of SEIU nurses will vote. If 51% approve, the new three-year contract will be ratified. It will expire in May, 2025.

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Jackie Fortiér helps Southern Californians understand the pandemic by identifying what's working and what's not in our health response.