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California Small Business Association Condemns California Nurses Association's Decision to Call Prolonged Strike at Hospitals Throughout Northern California

State's Small Business Owners Will Pay Higher Healthcare Costs Because of

Strikes and Union's Unrealistic Contract Demands

SACRAMENTO, Calif., March 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- the California Nurses Association announced their intention to hold prolonged strikes at hospitals throughout Northern California beginning March 21. The CNA strikes were called against hospitals affiliated with the Fremont-Rideout Health Group in Marysville and Yuba City, the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center (a county facility in Martinez) and six Bay Area hospitals affiliated with Sutter Health. Betty Jo Toccoli, president of the California Small Business Association, representing more than 200,000 small business owners in California, issued the following statement today in response to the latest round of strikes called by the California Nurses Association.

"On behalf of small business owners in Northern California and throughout the state, the California Small Business Association is deeply troubled by the California Nurses Association's (CNA) decision to conduct strikes against hospitals throughout Northern California for as long as 10 days.

"Clearly, the union's decision to bring thousands of nurses out on a prolonged strike will only serve to increase healthcare costs for all of us. The cost of these strikes and the union's unrealistic contract demands will hit small business owners especially hard.

"According to press accounts, a previous nurse strike at just two Northern California hospitals this past summer cost $1 million per day. Multiply that by nine hospitals over as many as ten-days, and it's clear that the CNA's strike will cost these hospitals -- and ultimately consumers -- tens of millions of dollars. That's tens of millions of dollars in unnecessary costs that could better be used to lower healthcare costs or expand technology, services or staff.

"CSBA is also troubled by what seem to be unrealistic and costly demands from CNA leadership at the bargaining table. Everyone agrees that nurses deserve to be well compensated. And, by all accounts, they are. According to the Hospital Association of Southern California, the average annual salary for a Bay Area Registered Nurse is $106,120.56 per year, before factoring benefits and overtime. That's more than many of California's small business owners earn.

"According to CNA statements and press accounts, the union is demanding tens of millions of dollars in increased costs for pension and retirement health care contributions, even though it's well documented that these nurses receive benefits far in excess of what employees from other industry sectors receive.

"Every healthcare consumer in this region has a vested interest in the outcome of these negotiations. Small business owners and their employees, in particular, cannot afford the continuing skyrocketing costs of healthcare. Employers will be forced to pass higher costs on to employees or worse, drop coverage altogether.

"Healthcare providers have a fiduciary responsibility to hold the line on costs for consumers. That means balancing their need to pay employees well, while also ensuring that compensation packages are reasonable so as not to unnecessarily burden healthcare consumers with even more costs.

"Lastly, it appears that CNA's motivation for conducting these strikes is questionable. According to press reports, as a condition of settlement the union is seeking to force many of these hospitals to accept easier union organizing rights, which would be a boon for the union but bad for employees. CSBA believes that employees should have a right to choose for themselves whether or not to join a union, and we oppose these union 'neutrality' agreements that strip employees of this fundamental right.

"We are hopeful the parties will get back to the bargaining table and avoid these unnecessary and costly strikes. All the while, hospitals must do what they can to protect consumers from unreasonable cost increases."

Betty Jo Tocolli is president of the California Small Business Association, representing more than 200,000 small business owners in California.

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