Health benefits

Stanford Health withholds health benefits for striking nurses

Five thousand nurses at Stanford Health Care and Stanford Children’s Health in California are at risk of losing their health benefits for going on strike Monday.

Stanford responded to the labor action by informing employees that it would not pay its share of premiums for their employer-sponsored health plans during the strike. Workers who want to maintain coverage must pay full premiums through federal COBRA law, according to Stanford.

Negotiations between the employer and the Committee for the Recognition of Nursing Acquired, the union representing the workers, began in January and the previous contracts expired on March 31. The parties have appealed to a federal mediator and the next negotiation session is scheduled for Tuesday.

“We respect the legal right of our nurses to participate in a work stoppage, but we are deeply disappointed that the union has chosen this path. A union work stoppage is a serious event that affects our patients, our families and our colleagues. The impact can be profound, long-lasting and costly,” said Dale Beatty, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services at Stanford Health Care, and Jesus Cepero, senior vice president of patient care and registered nurse. head of Stanford Children’s Health, in a statement.

Waiver of the employer’s share of health insurance premiums when employees are not working, unpaid or on approved leave is “common practice,” Beatty and Cepero said. Hospitals hired replacement nurses and reduced services and procedures during the strike.

The Committee for the Recognition of Nursing Achievements, or CRONA, has not set an end date for the strike.

“A strike has always been the last resort for nurses at CRONA, but we are prepared to stay strong and make the sacrifices today for the transformative changes that the nursing profession and our patients need,” Colleen Borges, president of the union and pediatric oncology nurse at Stanford’s Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, said in a press release.

Employers must balance the use of their bargaining power without permanently damaging their relationships with workers, said Colin Barnacle, partner at law firm Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough. Health benefits are a “pretty big bargaining chip” to use as leverage to weaken support for a work stoppage, he said.

“It’s a decision to break down support for a strike,” Barnacle said. “It’s dangerous, I think, because you risk quite a significant alienation from your workforce.”

The Stanford strike is one of a handful of recent labor disputes at California hospitals.

Last week, more than 8,000 nurses and other healthcare workers at 15 Sutter Health sites in California staged a one-day strike over concerns about staffing levels and health and safety standards. And 2,000 Service Employees Union International-United Healthcare Workers West members who work at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles voted earlier this month to allow their bargaining teams to go on strike in May after their contract with the non-profit hospital. ended March 31.