'We are scared to come to work': Union at 11 Tenet hospitals OKs strike

Workers at 11 Tenet Healthcare hospitals in California have voted to authorize a strike over contract negotiations, according to union and Tenet officials.  

SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West said 4,300 workers at the 11 facilities owned by Dallas-based Tenet are prepared to strike to advocate for a contract that ensures adequate personal protective equipment and staffing, as well as clear safety protocols, amid the pandemic. They seek protections that go further than minimal federal guidelines and contend Tenet has rejected most of the union's proposals on pandemic safety.

"We are scared to come to work knowing we are at great risk of exposure to COVID-19," Gisella Thomas, a respiratory therapist at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, said in a news release. "We want to work with management at our hospitals to increase protections for our health, our patients' health, our families' health and the health of our communities. We have put forth a pandemic safety proposal that addresses issues workers are concerned about, like staffing, PPE and increased COVID-19 testing for employees." 

The vote does not mean a strike will occur. But it authorizes the union to issue a 10-day strike notice to Tenet if it so chooses. 

Tenet and SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West have been in contract negotiations since May.

Despite the union's contention, Tenet is negotiating in good faith, has reached an agreement with the union on more than 40 non-economic items, and is waiting for the union's response on more than 30 proposals, Todd Burke, communications director for Tenet's California hospitals, told Becker's.

"We are actively negotiating with the union, [and] our negotiations have not broken down and we have not received the required 10-day strike notice from the union," he said.

Mr. Burke said Tenet is disappointed about the union's strike authorization vote, particularly amid the pandemic, and that every protocol in the company's COVID-19 response "has been built around the safety of our patients and staff and in compliance with CDC guidelines and state orders."

If a strike occurs, Tenet said its hospitals will remain fully operational.

A full list of hospitals with union members covered by the vote is available here


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