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Bay Area nurses picketing after going on strike

Associated Press Modified: November 20, 2012 at 9:16 pm •  Published: November 20, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Hundreds of nurses in the San Francisco Bay area were braving rain showers to walk picket lines after going on strike Tuesday, union officials said.

Registered nurses, respiratory technicians and X-ray technicians at eight hospitals operated by Sutter Health walked off the job around 7 a.m. in what will be a two-day strike, said California Nurses Association spokesman Chuck Idelson. Nurses at two San Jose hospitals operated by Hospital Corporation of America went on strike for one day.

The strike, the seventh by CNA since September 2011, came as union leaders and hospital officials remained at odds over health benefits, sick leave and other issues.

Union officials say the hospitals want to reduce the number of paid sick days for nurses and technicians, while eliminating health care coverage for those who work less than 30 hours a week.

"Hundreds of employees would lose their health coverage entirely, which is immorally unconscionable by a health care employer," Idelson said.

Hospital officials say they've made a fair contract offer to the nurses, but because of difficult economic times and changes in health care trends, they need to control costs.

"We are going through an incredibly difficult economic time in our country," said Carolyn Kemp, a spokeswoman for Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, one of the Sutter hospitals hit by the strike.

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