In response to proposed reductions in health benefits and concerns about staffing levels, members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) went on a three-day strike at the Watsonville Community Hospital in Watsonville, California. The union and the hospital, who have been operating without a labor agreement since the expiration of their last agreement in November 2013, have had nearly a dozen bargaining sessions. According to union officials, hospital management has proposed an elimination of the 6 percent hospital contribution to the nurses’ retirement plan, implementation of a matching system, and an increase in out-of-pocket expenses for health benefits. The union also asserts that the hospital has failed to address concerns about nurse staffing levels. According to the hospital, the protest has not affected operations at the hospital, which has increased security and used a temporary staffing firm to place nurses in the facility. The Watsonville strike is the latest protest by the nearly 250 nurses represented by the CNA/NNU, which also engaged in a one-day strike at a Santa Cruz County hospital in December.
Separate unfair labor practice charges were filed against FairPoint Communications Inc. by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communication Workers of America (CWA) after the company implemented its final proposals without union approval. The unions, which have been negotiating jointly on contracts covering nearly 2,000 workers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, claim that the Charlotte-based technologies company refused to bargain in good faith by implementing new terms and conditions of employment before impasse, without having made a last, best, and final contract offer, and by failing to provide the unions with information necessary for bargaining. The proposals, implemented after what the company claims was three weeks of deadlock, provide no change to current wage rates for current employees, preservation of substantially the same benefit plans, a freeze of the existing defined benefit pension plan, and the elimination of retiree medical benefits for current employees.