National Nurses United, with nearly 225,000 members nationwide, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in U.S. history.
In 2009, California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee played a lead role in bringing state nursing associations across the nation together into one national organization, National Nurses United (NNU). At its founding convention, NNU adopted a call for action to counter what it called “the national assault by the healthcare industry on patient care conditions and standards for nurses,” and to promote a unified vision of collective action for nurses.
This legislative year, nurses across California were instrumental in the introduction of A.B. 1156, authored by Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) and sponsored by California Nurses Association (CNA). The organization held a press conference about the proposed law on April 5 at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center.
This bill would define “injury,” for a hospital employee who provides direct patient care in an acute care hospital, to include infectious diseases, cancer, musculoskeletal injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and respiratory diseases. The bill would include the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, among other conditions, in the definitions of infectious and respiratory diseases. The bill would create rebuttable presumptions that these injuries that develop or manifest in a hospital employee who provides direct patient care in an acute care hospital arose out of and in the course of the employment. The bill would extend these presumptions for specified time periods after the hospital employee’s termination of employment.
Fortunately for California employers, A.B. 1156 was last found In the Assembly Insurance Committee as of March 2023. It failed deadline the deadline to move from policy committee to fiscal committee as of April 28, 2023. Thus the measure did not proceed to be passed by the Legislature in the current session, but technically is still alive for 2024 consideration.
The California Chamber of Commerce, and a number of other business organizations opposed A.B. 1156. It pointed out that in 2019, SB 567 (Caballero) included presumptions for a very similar, more narrow list of illnesses and injuries. The Senate Committee on Labor, Public Employment and Retirement issued an analysis concluding that there was no evidence supporting the need for this presumption. It also warned that “the creation of presumptive injuries is an exceptional deviation that uncomfortably exists within the space of the normal operation of the California workers’ compensation system,” and to not limit them “would essentially consume and undermine the entire system”.
Two of the most recent iterations of this bill, SB 893 (Caballero) and SB 567 (Caballero) received 0 and 1 Aye votes in committee, respectively. SB 213 (Cortese) did not receive a motion in Assembly Insurance last year.
In 2014, AB 2616 (Skinner), the only version to make it to the Governor’s desk, was vetoed by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. In his veto message he stated, “This bill would create a first of its kind private employer workers’ compensation presumption for a specific staph infection — methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) — for certain hospital employees. California’s no-fault system of worker’s compensation insurance requires that claims must be ‘liberally construed’ to extend benefits to injured workers whenever possible. The determination that an illness is work-related should be decided by the rules of that system and on the specific facts of each employee’s situation. While I am aware that statutory presumptions have steadily expanded for certain public employees, I am not inclined to further this trend or to introduce it into the private sector.”
In this case, plaintiffs are Ventura County, California firefighters and law enforcement officers who (except for one plaintiff) are members of two unions, the Ventura County