Healthy paychecks for Sutter Health nurses

Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross, Chronicle Columnist

When it comes to paychecks, there are some pretty hefty ones on both sides of the fight between health care giant Sutter Health and its hospital nurses.

According to Sutter pay records, 20 nurses at Alta Bates Summit Medical Centers in Oakland and Berkeley pulled in between $200,000 and $291,000 last year, thanks in part to overtime – way above the $136,000 average pay for the centers’ 1,800 nurses.

What’s more, of the highest-paid nurses, five received more than $100,000 apiece in stand-by pay – just to be on call.

But if you want to see some really hefty paychecks, look at the ones going to Sutter Health execs.

Records that the company filed with the Internal Revenue Service in 2009 show that 20 Sutter Health bosses were paid more than $1 million. Topping the list, at nearly $4 million, was company CEO Pat Fry.

Both sides are more interested in pointing the finger than talking about their own pay.

“At least Sutter executives showed up and earned their paychecks,” Sutter spokesman Sam Singer of Singer Associates Public Relations said, referring to the recent one-day strike by the California Nurses Association that Sutter followed with a five-day lockout.

“Our strike was not about nurses’ wages,” countered Chuck Idelson, a spokesman for the nurses union. Instead, he said, it was about benefits and cuts in patient services.

Anyway, Idelson said, nurses’ salaries are not the reason for rising health care costs, as the hospitals have claimed.

“Billions are being wasted on technology that does not improve care, and price gouging by pharmaceuticals and medical manufacturers and insurance companies,” Idelson said. “How can you compare that to what a nurse makes? It’s disinformation to bring that into the same picture.”

Besides, said UC Berkeley labor specialist Harley Shaiken, no matter how much a small group of nurses might make, for most of the public, “they are worth it, especially when it’s you or a member of your family going into the operating room.”

London calling: San Francisco mayoral candidate Bevan Dufty’s TV ad – which features the former supervisor and his 5-year-old daughter, Sidney, riding Muni – made it all the way to London’s Daily Mail this week.

Apparently, it’s the first political ad to feature a gay candidate’s child.

Say what? San Francisco City Attorney and mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera must possess some very special charms.

Ron Tutor and eight other executives of his Tutor Perini Corp. each gave $500 to Herrera’s mayoral campaign – even though as city attorney, Herrera sued the company for fraud.

The 2002 lawsuit claimed that Tutor’s affiliated firm, Tutor-Saliba Corp., over charged the city and used minority-owned subcontractors as fronts to obtain business when it landed $1.1 billion worth of work at San Francisco International Airport, mostly for the new international terminal.

On his campaign website, Herrera is still calling it an “an elaborate pattern of public works fraud.”

Tutor-Saliba eventually settled the suit for $19 million, without admitting wrongdoing.

As for why Tutor and his execs gave $4,500 to Herrera’s mayoral campaign?

“We paid (to settle the lawsuit), and now we think Mr. Herrera would be a fine mayor,” Tutor told us from his corporate office in Southern California.

“Let’s leave it at that.”

And why would crusader Herrera accept money from what he calls “one of the largest, most politically connected construction firms in the nation?”

“A strong mayor needs the ability to work constructively with former foes once they’ve resolved problems,” said campaign spokesman Matt Dorsey.

And nothing is more constructive than a good contribution.

Day old: For all the headline-grabbing attention it got, that Republican group’s “bake sale” at UC Berkeley to protest a bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk that would allow the University of California to consider applicants’ race was anything but poppin’ fresh.

Eight years ago, Berkeley College Republicans hosted a campus bake sale with exactly the same wrinkle as last week’s – whites were charged more for their cookies than Latinos, blacks or other minorities. It touched off the same outrage, and the circus was covered by everyone from Fox News to the Associated Press.

The 2011 bake sale did have one difference from the last one – cookie prices were 25 to 50 cents higher, except for Native Americans. They got a 25-cent cut.

Go figure.

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Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Matier can be seen on the KPIX-TV morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call (415) 777-8815, or e-mail