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4,000 hospital workers ready to go on strike in California

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SAN FRANCISCO — Ten northern California hospitals are bracing for a planned one-day strike by thousands of workers who say they are so underpaid and overworked that patient care is being jeopardized.

The threatened walk-off comes at a tough time for area hospitals: 1,730 nurses at two Stanford hospitals are in their fourth week of a strike and five anesthesiologists at an Oakland hospital resigned last week in a dispute over pay and other issues.

The proposed Thursday strike by about 4,000 receptionists, food service workers, nursing assistants and respiratory therapists has forced some hospitals — five Sutter Health hospitals, three Catholic Healthcare West hospitals and two independent facilities — to cut some services, particularly elective procedures.

"With the nurses' strike affecting the other hospitals, the fact that the union would target 10 more hospitals just confounds me," said Bill Gleeson, a spokesman for Sacramento-based Sutter Health. "They're abandoning patients for a picnic and parade. That's not just uncaring and reckless, it's tragic."

The hospital workers, represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 250, claim the one-day strike is no more reckless than the reduced patient care that has resulted from years of mergers, staff cutbacks and profit-seeking by the hospitals.