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Nurses Launch 5-Day Strike At Alameda County Hospitals After 9 Months Of Labor Talks Fall Short

ALAMEDA (KPIX/CBS SF) -- Thousands of nurses walked off the job at Alameda County hospitals early Wednesday as nine months of failed labor negotiations have led to acrimony along the boisterous picket lines.

Service Employees International Union Local 1021, representing about 3,000 employees, has promised to walk the picket lines for five days and also hold rallies and vigils.

Out on the streets before the sun came up Wednesday morning hundreds of Oakland's Highland Hospital health workers were walking the sidewalks with signs, hoping their message will finally be heard.

Among those striking in front of Highland was John Pearson, a nurse who works in the hospital's emergency room.

"We've been coming to them [Alameda Health System] for years about really basic problems inside the hospitals and clinics system in the county," he said. "I work in the ER here at Highland hospital and I can tell you that I'm in the unfortunate position of having to send homeless patients, trauma patient, sexual assault victims out into the cold in the middle of the night in paper t-shirts, paper pants and socks with no shoes because AHS fails to budget and provide weather adequate clothing like the law requires."

Their message hasn't fallen on deaf ears. Some Alameda County supervisors said they'll be out here picketing with workers. And at Tuesday night's board meeting, they talked about actively replacing the leadership.

"Thank you for your service. We appreciate what you've done, but clearly you are no longer effective," said District 2 Supervisor Richard Valle.

AHS told KPIX 5 Wednesday morning they have staffed the county hospitals in San Leandro, Alameda and at Highland with replacement nurses.

On Tuesday night, AHS officials issued a statement saying "a strike is egregious, unnecessary, harmful to the community and does nothing to advance our efforts to partner to ensure that we provide the best care to all, especially the indigent and underserve how have few other choices if any."

The statement continued: "While we are disappointed that the unions called this strike at a time when there are already extraordinary strains on healthcare providers, we encourage them to the bargaining table where we can resolve our differences and reach an agreement on a fair, mutually beneficial contract."

Meanwhile, the California Nurses Association also issued a statement critical of AHS, which oversees Alameda County's health network.

"AHS management has repeatedly put nurses and patients at risk by violating the current contract by making unilateral changes such as deciding to cut the emergency room staff in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic," the statement read.

Emily Turner contributed to this story.

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