By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Hundreds of nurses at Keck Hospital of USC and the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center are slated to begin a two-day strike Tuesday amid ongoing contract negotiations.

FILE — Nurses from the Keck Hospital of USC hold placards during a nationwide protest organized by the National Nurses United demanding hospitals to put patients first during the COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles, California on Jan. 27, 2021 . (Getty Images)

The nurses are planning to picket outside Keck Hospital beginning at 8 a.m. over what they say is understaffing that is impacting patient care. Union nurses voted in favor of authorizing the strike last month.

“We don’t want to strike, but our patients’ safety is jeopardized by chronic short staffing and the hospital’s excessive reliance on outside contractors without the appropriate skill mix to provide safe care” USC nurse Joshua Duarte said in a statement.

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United represents about 1,400 nurses at the two hospitals. The two sides have been negotiating since November of 2020.

Keck Medicine of USC says that in response to the strike, it has hired contract nurses for a minimum of five days beginning at 7 a.m. Tuesday. Keck said its union nurses are not scheduled to work for the next five days.

Keck released a statement in response to the strike, which read in part;

“After more than 40 bargaining sessions with CNA, Keck Medicine and CNA reached a tentative agreement in June 2021 that expands wages and benefits, significantly exceeding those of other local academic medical centers and further enhancing the strong patient care and safety for which we’re recognized.

“The contract we propose has nothing taken away and is stronger on the key issues we recognize are important to our health system and employees.”