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Battle of the nurses unions turns physical

April 9, 2008 | 10:01 pm

A nasty fight erupted at L.A. County hospitals today when organizers for the California Nurses Assn. launched a campaign to persuade 6,000 county-employed nurses to ditch the Service Employees International Union, the powerful organization that represents them, and join the CNA instead, Garrett Therolf reports.

Police arrested a CNA organizer accused of slapping an SEIU organizer and of stomping on the foot of another. A county official who asked for anonymity claimed CNA organizers dressed up as nurses so they could get into areas of the hospital normally off limits.

"The nurses are leaving SEIU and coming to CNA. That is a fact," said Jill Furillo, CNA's Southern California director. "Los Angeles County hospitals are the most horrendous and horrible facilities. The patients and nurses have been suffering in those places."

That's news to Elizabeth Brennan, a spokeswoman for SEIU Local 721.

"There is no question that the nurses will continue to be represented by SEIU," Brennan said. "Nurses won a record raise last year because they are united as an entire healthcare team with other Los Angeles County employees and other healthcare workers -- and that helps improve the quality of healthcare in the county."

Furillo said, "A real war is going to happen."

Last month, the CNA organized the only private hospital in Texas, the Houston Chronicle reports. Its attempt to move into other Texas hospitals, where nurses already have union representation, mirrors the fight now brewing in LA County. Similar scenarios are playing out in Nevada and Ohio.

--Garrett Therolf & Veronique de Turenne