Healthcare workers go on 24-hour strike

October 29, 2008 11:42:44 AM PDT
Thousands of health care workers walked off the job, in a one day strike against nine Northern California hospitals and one in Southern California. They're angry about the lack of a new contract.

A spokesperson from the Alta Bates Summit campus said the hospital is fully-functioning. And that patient-care is not affected by these hospital caregivers on strike. The workers started this one-day, 24-hour strike at 6:00 Wednesday morning in protest of what they call unfair labor negotiation from hospital management.

Nearly 6,000 members of the Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers-West are picketing at the facilities of two hospital groups, the Sutter Health facilities and hospitals owned by Daughters of Charity Health System -- nine of these facilities are located in Northern California.

The picketers include nurse assistants, emergency room technicians, transporters and housekeeping. They've been working without a contract since September 30th and are in the midst of negotiations for a new one. The workers are complaining about wages, staffing shortages and their retirement and health benefits. And say that an unstable workforce leads to poor patient care. Union employees say the hospital is even trying to renegotiate items already in their contracts.

"They're taking away - they're talking about subcontracting out our jobs. They're talking about our seniority rights. They're talking about giving more in severance packages to employees. They're talking about moving people from this hospital and you would no longer be union, so we call that union-busting," said Beverly Griffth, Alta Bates Summit employee.

"I think it's unusual that the union would be asking for 30-percent wage increase over the new contract, 30-percent during this economic climate that we have right now, it's irresponsible to ask their membership to go out on strike for even a day when we haven't really been negotiating," said Carolyn Kemp, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center spokesperson.

The Alta Bates Medical Center in Oakland says it was surprised at the strike because management has been and is willing to negotiate more. Since May, the two sides have met about eight times at the bargaining table. Workers said they plan to go back to work at 6:00 am Thursday and the hospital has said it will not lock them out.


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