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Hospital Workers Launch 4-Day Strike at St. Francis


Amid a surge of nurses union activity statewide, dozens of nurses and therapists launched a four-day strike Friday at St. Francis Medical Center, the second walkout there in a month.

Workers at the Lynwood facility contend that union contract negotiations have stalled, although at least two bargaining sessions are set for later this month.

Hospital management has proposed a three-year contract, but members of the Service Employees International Union want a two-year agreement so that in 2004 they can bargain collectively with dozens of hospitals statewide. Those hospitals have recently signed contracts that end in two years. Workers also hope that a final contract will include a guarantee of outside arbitration for future staffing disputes, which hospital officials said they will not provide.

Officials at the 384-bed hospital said the strike would not disrupt the facility's services. A hospital spokeswoman said the strike shows that the union is more interested in its own agenda than in securing a contract that benefits its members.

"It seems like we're part of some statewide strategy, and we're not going to be distracted by those kinds of tactics," said spokeswoman Carol Lee Thorpe. "We're trying to focus on the negotiations at hand."

Union representatives expect nearly 300 workers to participate before the strike ends Monday night.

"I'm in this for the long haul," said Mary Newton, a case manager at St. Francis for 15 years. "I'll keep coming out here as often as it takes to fight for justice, for patients and for ourselves."

Up to 80 workers at the Robert F. Kennedy Medical Center in Hawthorne will join the walkout Monday. The Daughters of Charity Health System owns both hospitals.

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