Nurse-unionists stage lame solidarity stunt

Nearly 50 Eden Medical Center nurses tried to return to work Friday morning after a two-day strike, but they left after the hospital manager rebuffed them.

About 5,000 registered nurses walked off the job Wednesday and Thursday and were set to resume work Friday. But five of the 15 Northern California hospitals affected, including Eden, had announced they would lock out striking nurses.

Nevertheless, a contingent of Eden nurses braved a downpour to rally before marching in lockstep up a steep driveway to the hospital entrance ready to begin their 7 a.m. shifts. "We want to work. We're ready to come back," Bob Auen, a registered nurse at Eden for 18 years in the intensive care unit, said to nursing administrative head Rose Corcoran.

But Corcoran and other administrative staff passed out a Sept. 28 memo stating that only nurses who crossed the picket line or who were not scheduled to work Wednesday or Friday would be allowed to work before Saturday morning.

The group returned to the sidewalk in front of the hospital and dispersed. "We're working all as one or none at all," Auen, a union leader, told the others. Hospital spokeswoman Jonnie Banks said part of the rationale behind the lockout was the expense of contracting replacement nurses through the end of the week. Allowing the absent nurses to return, she said, would have resulted in double staffing.

"There should have been no surprise here," said Banks, who added that 18 to 20 percent of the 400-person nursing staff at the Castro Valley campus worked during the strike. "We have to provide for our patients here," Banks said.

Auen criticized the hospital's decision to allow some nurses to work while denying others.

"If somebody was arbitrarily off those two days, they could work," he said. "That (tactic) is divisive ... We had every intention (today) to come and take care of our patients."


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