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CA nurses union, Alta Bates divide widens

San Francisco Chronicle, October 3, 2011

The death of an Oakland cancer patient at the hands of a replacement nurse has further divided unionized nurses and the hospital that locked them out after a one-day strike, raising questions about the interplay of labor politics and patient care. The registered nurses, represented by the powerful California Nurses Association-National Nurses United, believe the tragic incident will widen the rift between the union and management. The nurses blame the hospital, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, and its parent Sutter Health, for pushing them to strike by proposing cuts in working conditions and benefits. Alta Bates Summit officials, meanwhile, accuse the union of exploiting the incident for political gain. Either way, the incident raises questions over whether the nurses union or hospital management have crossed a line - one that mixes power with politics and has allowed wages and profit to trump patient safety.