The District 1199 National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees negotiating committee submitted its 10-day notice of intent to strike last night.

Union members voted June 14 to allow the negotiating committee to take that action if lawyers for Christus St Vincent Regional Medical Center failed to meet more of the union's demands. As SFR previously reported, Christus' attempts to restrict the union's ability to decide staffing levels at the hospital were one major sticking point in the negotiations.

District 1199 President Fonda Osborn tells SFR that the negotiating committee tried to work out an extension on the contract last week, but lawyers for Christus tried to make them stipulate to unacceptable conditions.

"We would have to quit having the public meetings and rallies," Osborn says. "We couldn't go to the news, couldn't go to the community, and it's like, 'Well, I don't think so—that's our right.'"

Both sides have a meeting with a mediator Thursday who will attempt to help them work out an extension. Sixteen hours of negotiations between the union and the hospital remain, and Christus still hasn't revealed everything they're offering in terms of pay, Osborn says. She says neither she nor the union's lawyer have seen the hospital use that tactic before.

The union will have another chance to vote on whether to go ahead with the strike next week. The strike would begin July 1.

"The people at the hospital are saying they have all these strike nurses ready to come in," Osborn says. "Why didn't they use them last week when we were so short staffed?"