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St. John's Nurses Call Off Strike Wednesday

Former state senator Shiela Kuehl offers to serve as mediator after negotiations fall apart.

Hundreds of registered nurses at in Santa Monica have postponed a day-long strike to protest what they see as stalling by hospital officials in negotiating the nurses' first labor contract.

The nurses have staged informational pickets in the past few months, but none disrupted hospital operations. The strike planned for Wednesday "would have had a tremendous impact," said Joe Newlin, a spokesman with California Nurses Association.

The approximately 500 nurses—who are members of St. John's newest union—oppose a proposal that would allow the hospital to count licensed vocational nurses as part of the California's mandated nurse-to-patient ratio. In a statement to Patch in February, the hospital said  the pace of the negotiations was not any different from many other first contract negotiations between hospitals and unions.

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In a press release announcing Wednesday's planned strike, the California Nurses Association accused hospital management of walking out of a June 5 bargaining session after 15 minutes.

But Newlin said the union was persuaded to change course by Santa Monica resident and former state senator Sheila Kuehl, who offered to serve as a mediator.

"It would be so much more positive for our community if we did everything possible to try again for a solution prior to a strike/lockout,” Kuehl wrote to both parties. 

According to Newlin, she proposed “that the California Nurses Association postpone their notice of a job action until such time as a meeting can be scheduled to address the remaining issues in your collective bargaining negotiations…[and] that the St. John’s Medical Center officials postpone their planned lock-out and agree to such a meeting with the California Nurses Association and, with my assistance, if that is seen as helpful, work toward a common goal of settling a fair contract.”

The California Nurses Association's bargaining team voted unanimously to accept Kuehl’s offer and to resume negotiations. 

"Our goal from the beginning was not to have a strike or lockout, but to reach a contract we can all be proud of. CNA ... hereby gives notice of the withdrawal of our strike notice for June 13, 2012. All Saint John’s RNs will report to work as usual on that date and on the dates of [the] putative lockout,” the team wrote in a fax to the hospital and Kuehl. 

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