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SF Nurses Reach Tentative Contract Deal With City, Averting Potential Strike

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A man wearing a surgical facemask and green scrubs stands outside a hospital building
Aaron Cramer, a San Francisco nurse for 16 years, said the contract negotiations were ultimately about patient care. (Nik Altenberg/KQED)

Nurses at San Francisco public hospitals and clinics reached a tentative contract agreement with the city, likely averting a potential strike over staffing levels and working conditions, the health care workers’ union announced Tuesday.

The deal would add 47 full-time-equivalent positions to San Francisco General Hospital and other clinics, keeping wages ahead of inflation.

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The potential contract, agreed to on Monday night, is a “huge win” and likely to be approved by union membership, said Aaron Cramer, a registered nurse who works in the cardiac catheterization lab at San Francisco General Hospital.

Last week, the more than 2,000 nurses represented by SEIU Local 1021 at San Francisco General, Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, and a number of community clinics voted 99.5% in favor of authorizing a strike if a deal wasn’t in place by the time the current contract expires June 30.

That vote “showed the city that we were united about what we wanted, which was safe staffing for patient care. And they heard us loud and clear,” Cramer told KQED. “They finally showed up to the bargaining table prepared to actually negotiate for what we thought was a fair deal.”

The additional staff for “critical service areas that chronically run understaffed” will improve conditions for patients and medical workers, he said.

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“This entire contract was about patient care,” Cramer said, noting that understaffing affects the time it takes nurses to complete every aspect of a patient’s care. “Especially when they’re chronically sick, patients need things now, and we want to provide it for them now. But when we’re understaffed, it’s like trying to care for someone with an arm tied behind your back.”

The San Francisco Department of Public Health, which operates the city hospitals and clinics, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A union vote to approve the contract is expected in the next two weeks.

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