Nurses’ roving picket line starts at airport

Nurses on strike from Wilcox Memorial Hospital moved their picket line to the traffic light outside Lihu‘e Airport yesterday, with plans to visit other areas on the island during the next week.

“It’s an informational picket for the tourists,” said D.Q. Jackson, a member of the negotiating team and also a Wilcox nurse.

The union wants to deliver a message to visitors: “Be careful on Kaua‘i,” Jackson said. “It’s important that when people come to the island they understand that nurses are on strike.”

The hospital has remained open throughout the 99-day strike with nurses coming from off-island to work at the facility.

“We’ve always maintained that staffing is very adequate,” said Lani Yukimura, spokeswoman for the hospital.

Randall Francisco, president of the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce, said the picket would expose tourists to the rift between Wilcox and its nurses, but probably would not have a negative impact on visitors’ experiences.

County officials agreed.

“We are unaware of any negative impacts that the nurses picketing at the airport has had on the tourist industry,” public information officer Mary Daubert said. “We haven’t received any calls about the nurses picketing.”

Nurses rejected the hospital’s latest offer on Wednesday, and the hospital raised the possibility of calling for an impasse. No new talks have been scheduled.

Nurses walked out in June in a strike that the union has said centers on staffing levels. Nurses say the hospital has been understaffed, while the hospital maintains that it keeps an adequate number of nurses on hand.

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