UCSF children's hospital workers authorize 2nd strike

Workers at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland, Calif., have authorized their second strike in a matter of months. 

The first strike took place on April 19 and lasted one day, rendering most nonemergency services at the hospital and its satellite East Bay clinics unavailable. More than 1,200 hospital employees represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers participated after working without a contract for months. 

No date has been set for the second strike, although it will last three days, according to a May 22 news release from the union. Workers — including vocational nurses, medical technicians, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, housekeepers, mental health therapists, clerical staff and nursing assistants — overwhelmingly voted in support of the strike and have submitted a notice to the hospital. 

In 2014, UCSF gained control of the Benioff Children's Hospital-Oakland, one of five level 1 pediatric trauma centers in California. Physicians and caregivers have raised concerns about UCSF under-resourcing care and making families travel to the health system's San Francisco hospital, the union alleges. 

UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital-Oakland and the union have been in negotiations for more than a year. The union alleges that the hospital has rejected proposals that would offer workers comparable positions if UCSF takes full control of the hospital or merges specific departments; provide sufficient notice of further service or job reductions; ensure all workers receive market wages; and stop requiring caregivers to perform high-level work while keeping them in lower-paid classifications. 

The hospital told Becker's it extended a "last, best, and final" offer to the union on April 14, representing more than $40 million increases for union-represented employees — including an across-the-board 13 percent wage increase over three years. 

Only a few items remain unsolved in the three contracts, according to the hospital. One barrier is that the union has asked the hospital to bind UCSF in a future contract; this cannot be done since UCSF is a public entity, a spokesperson for the hospital told Becker's

"A strike is never in the best interest of the hospital or our patients," the hospital said in a May 24 statement. "We remain hopeful that we can make meaningful movement in response to our final offer and avoid any future work stoppages."

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