It was hot yesterday at Walnut Park in Petaluma, but that didn’t stop a determined crowd of over 30 nurses to gather at 5:30 p.m. to stage an ‘action’ and create video that symbolized what they felt was a refusal by the California Nurses Association (CNA) and the National Labor Board to heed their requests to acknowledge the decertification of the CNA as their Union. This petition was filed over a year ago, and is a result of their belief that the CNA is no longer an effective union to address their concerns, and that their ability to advocate on behalf of patients has been blocked.
The assembled protestors set up a mock wedding to symbolize their issues with the partnership between the CNA and St. Joseph’s Health System (which now manages Petaluma Valley Hospital). A person in a chicken suit was dressed as the bride – representing the CNA, and a man playing the groom was dressed as the Monopoly man – representing St. Joseph’s. The protestors were seated as wedding guests, shackled with a paper chain and with their mouth’s taped shut. The most symbolic part came when the question “does anyone have any objections to this marriage?” was asked, and everyone who was seated raised their shacked hands and tried to speak through the tape over their mouths.’ One of the biggest complaints the nurses have is feeling that their votes for the decertification of the CNA are being ignored, hence the tape, and that their hands are tied when it comes to making changes, hence the shackles.
After taping this story, the group headed over to city hall to speak during the 6 p.m. meeting of the Petaluma city council and Petaluma community development successor agency. Jim Goerlich, who’s been a registered nurse at Petaluma Valley Hospital for the past 19 years, was the first to speak, “We have been basically held hostage at our hospital for a year and half now, we’ve been very upset at how our union has been dealing with our employer – it has cut nurses out of negotiations. We have no effective union in the hospital, and no way to advocate for our patients.” He further stressed that though legal maneuvering; they have been blocked from voting for new union, and stopped from negotiating their contract.
Linda Bauer, an evening ER nurse was the next to speak, and she spoke for herself as well as reading a letter from a colleague. Her concerns were focused more on how being unable to move forward with a different union was having a severe impact on the abilities of the nurses to have a safe working environment, fully staffed that would allow them to provide adequate care for their patients.
This protest was brought before the city council with carefully thought out arguments, but there was no outcome expected at this meeting. The city council has no jurisdiction over the happenings at Petaluma Valley Hospital or what the California Nurses Association does; rather, the goal was to make sure that the public was made aware of what these nurses have been dealing with behind the scenes for the past year. In this, they’ve been successful.