SEIU 1021

Nurses at San Francisco’s Public Hospitals & Community Clinics Vote by 99.5% to Authorize a Strike
SF Department of Public Health management has refused to take meaningful action in contract negotiations to address the chronic, severe staffing crisis undermining patient care, leaving nurses to take desperate measures to advocate for their patients



Contact: Jennie Smith-Camejo,, (510) 710-0201; Ella Sogomonian,, (415) 686-5075

SAN FRANCISCO: San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) registered nurses gathered at their union hall on May 17th to count votes cast throughout the week at SF General Hospital, Laguna Honda Hospital, and community clinics across the city. By a 99.5% landslide, RNs across SFDPH voted to authorize their contract negotiations team to call a strike.

The RN bargaining team is still in negotiations and remains committed to working with the City to settle a contract that will address the staffing shortage and working conditions to ensure quality of patient care. The strike authorization, however, will allow the bargaining team to call a strike after their current contract expires June 30th if the City keeps refusing to engage seriously and in good faith on the nurses’ priorities to protect and improve patient care.

“Our public hospitals and clinics are literally at a breaking point, and City management is acting as if it’s business as usual,” said SEIU 1021 SFGH RN Chapter President Heather Bollinger, who has been an RN in the emergency department at SF General Hospital for 16 years. “Our nurse-to-patient ratios are constantly out of compliance with state law. Wait times in our ER can be six to eight hours. Private hospitals are actively recruiting the nurses we’ve invested considerable time and resources into training – and when they can get hired quickly for higher pay and better working conditions, many of them accept those offers. This churn and burn feeds a vicious cycle of short staffing.” 

SFDPH claims not to have a high RN vacancy rate – but leadership has based its budgeted beds on unrealistic numbers. For example, patient census in multiple departments at SFGH have been consistently over 100% for the month for years. Further, they’ve used per-diem temporary part-time nurses to do the equivalent number of hours of 291 full-time RNs. The union has presented evidence of 16,000 missed breaks and over 1,400 “assignment despite objection” forms outlining unsafe conditions. And earlier this spring, the City sought budget authority for $55 million for travel nurses, which cost the City more than permanent employees and come with less commitment, experience with SF’s patient population, and often with less experience and qualifications.

“Since negotiations began in February, the City has ignored its employees working on the frontlines of the City’s toughest public health problems as we’ve spent countless hours crafting solutions to make a serious dent in our staffing crisis. They called us ‘healthcare heroes,’ yet refuse to listen to our advocacy,” said SEIU 1021 Community Clinic RN Chapter President Jennifer Esteen. “This overwhelming vote to authorize a strike shows that we won’t back down when it comes to ensuring patient care in San Francisco’s public hospitals and clinics. A strike is always a last resort, but if that’s what it takes to make SFDPH management listen to us when we advocate for our patients, we will do it.”