Nearly 800 California hospital workers launch 5-day strike

Nearly 800 workers at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Memorial Hospital will hold a five-day strike starting July 20, according to the union that represents them.

The strike — slated to start at 6 a.m. July 20 and last through 6 a.m. July 25 — comes as workers including nursing assistants, respiratory therapists and medical technicians are negotiating a new contract with hospital management.

Workers have been without a new contract for more than a year, and key sticking points at the bargaining table have included insurance and other benefits.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers contends the hospital is cutting paid time off, which includes sick leave, and proposing increases to healthcare costs, including more than doubling the cost of annual premiums for the most popular family plan. The union also makes claims of insufficient personal protective equipment and unsafe staffing levels at Santa Rosa Memorial.

"We don't have enough PPE to keep us safe, but management wants us to pay twice as much to insure our families," Shannon Signer, a radiology technician at the hospital, said in a news release. "Our health has never been at greater risk."

The hospital, part of St. Joseph Health-Sonoma County, countered in a statement to Becker's that it has offered "significant wage increases and a generous package of benefits," including guaranteed minimum wage increases of 12 percent over four years, plus "step" increases based on seniority; two new preferred provider organization health plan options; the option of choosing the current Northern California PPO plan, with annual premium increases limited by the contract; and a new schedule of PTO accrual rates under which most caregivers would accrue the same or more PTO annually.

"We all want the same thing — the competitive pay and benefits package that will allow us to retain and attract the best talent to serve Sonoma County. It is our desire to reach an agreement with NUHW on the few remaining articles so our employees may receive the significant and immediate wage increases our current offer would provide," said Tyler Hedden, CEO of St. Joseph Health-Sonoma County.

Meanwhile, the hospital expressed disappointment about the strike, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and said it is preparing accordingly by contracting with an agency to provide temporary replacement workers. The hospital said replacement workers will be at the hospital for five days, beginning on the first day of the strike. Santa Rosa Memorial is also closing outpatient imaging services during the walkout, although the emergency department remains open for emergency care.


More articles on human resources:
Florida RNs at 3 HCA hospitals file OSHA complaints alleging unsafe working conditions
Chicago hospital workers reach contract deal, avert strike
16 recent hospital-union conflicts, agreements

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