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Nurses union ordered to pay more than $6 million to Riverside Community Hospital for 2020 strike

Union ordered to pay more than $6 million to Riverside hospital for 2020 nurses strike
Union ordered to pay more than $6 million to Riverside hospital for 2020 nurses strike 02:13

The union representing nurses at a Riverside hospital has been ordered to pay millions of dollars for a strike in 2020. 

A private arbitrator, mutually agreed upon by both parties ordered that the union, Service Employees International Union 121RN, pay $6.26 million to Riverside Community Hospital for damages, calling the 10-day strike unlawful, according to SEIU.

The union says that the nurses felt they had a duty to sound the alarm because the hospital was failing to keep workers, patients and the community safe with their practices just three months into the COVID pandemic. They say that they were forced to suffer through staffing shortages and lack of personal protective equipment, all while hospital floors were slammed with severely sick patients. 

On the other hand, the hospital claims that all of their healthcare facilities were strained during the pandemic and that the nurses were told four years ago that the strike was illegal. 

Union members don't agree with the decision, especially as healthcare workers across the United States were hailed as heroes during the early stages of the pandemic. 

The federal ruling found that the strike violated the union's collective bargaining agreement, and the money is meant to be used to cover the cost of replacing the workers who walked out during the clash over safety. 

Months after the strike happened, the hospital was still so strapped for staff members that the National Guard had to send in a team to help. The hospital claims that this was a nationwide issue. 

"Our contract was clear, and the union showed reckless disregard for its members and the Riverside community by calling the strike," said a statement from HCA Healthcare. "We applaud the arbitrator's decision."

SEIU 121RN, which plans to appeal the ruling, also issued a statement, which said: 

"Healthcare workers made enormous sacrifices to keep their communities safe during the pandemic—including overcoming their fears of retaliation for telling the truth about what was happening inside the hospital walls. To penalize them for doing so is an affront to the free-speech rights of all workers."

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