California Nurses Locked Out in Class War over Health Care

Image credit: National Nurses United

On April 18, over 8,000 nurses in Northern California went on a one-day strike in the 18 facilities of the Sutter health care system. They have been working without a contract since June 2021. The strikers are asking for a safer working environment and an increase in nursing staff. Last week was the final straw when Sutter offered a 2% wage increase, which, when inflation is growing at 8.5%, is in effect a very real pay cut! 

The following day, Sutter locked out the striking workers for four days in retaliation for their one strike day, guaranteeing five days of work for their replacements (often other desperate workers looking for any job they can get). The California Nurses Association, which represents the nurses, called the four-day lockout “a completely unnecessary and vindictive anti-union move.” Vindictive and anti-union, yes. Unnecessary? Of course.  But let’s be realistic: while the union would like Sutter to play nice, this is class war, and Sutter knows it.

During the pandemic, nurses were held up as heroes all around the world. They’ve been pushed to work to the point of collapse. The privatized, wildly profitable medical system used that good will to increase its profits. Today, hospitals are putting as much pressure as ever on the very people who got us through the pandemic. Nurse staffing has dropped during the pandemic due to burnout. This has only exacerbated the understaffing that was already common before the pandemic.

In the capitalist medical system, management sees cuts in staff as a means to increase profits. When healthcare is run by CEOs with MBAs, and not MDs, the system is not built to care for patients, but to make a profit. The whole health care and medical system is a money-making operation.

In a class war, we have to gather our forces and prepare to fight back. To defend our wages, and our working conditions, but also to rid ourselves of this system that uses us and abuses us. There is no doubt that the anger among nurses and other medical professionals is building steam. A one-day strike is just the beginning of what we can expect in the future.