Workers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center greenlight potential strike

Workers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles have authorized the union representing them to call a strike in May.

In an April 11 news release, the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West said its members want the hospital to bargain in good faith with them to address inadequate staffing, patient and worker safety concerns, and low wages amid high inflation.

"It's shameful that right here in Beverly Hills, healthcare workers are struggling to support their families on $17 an hour. Yet, Cedars-Sinai pays its executives millions," Yudis Cruz, a certified nursing assistant at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said in the release. "Cedars should invest more in their low-wage front-line caregivers and less in highly paid executives that rarely interact with patients."

Jose Sanchez, a lead transporter at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, also said in the release that workers are "rushed, stressed out and stretched thin, which causes longer wait times for patients and delays in care." 

SEIU-UHW represents more than 2,000 workers, or 13 percent of the hospital's workforce, including certified nursing assistants, transporters, environmental services, plant operations, surgical technicians and food service technicians.

The authorization vote does not mean a strike will occur, but it gives the union the ability to issue an official strike notice. The union must give the hospital advance notice before a strike can occur.

In a statement shared with Becker's, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center said it has "always recognized [workers] by providing market-leading pay and benefits" and described the authorization vote as "premature."

"Negotiations for a new contract have barely started," the statement said. "At the beginning of negotiations, Cedars-Sinai offered to roll over the existing contract and provide each represented employee with substantial pay increases, averaging more than 15 percent over three years. Without asking its members, SEIU-UHW rejected Cedars-Sinai's offer. The parties have since met for only two bargaining sessions." 

The statement also said the hospital raised minimum pay rates by more than $2 per hour last summer, without a union request, and provided a "thank you" bonus to employees, including unionized staff. Other benefits cited by the hospital include free lodging to employees during the pandemic, reimbursement and reduced rates for backup child care and adult/elder care, and pay protection for those whose hours were affected by the pandemic.

"Cedars-Sinai has maintained strong working relationships with our SEIU-UHW-represented employees for years, and we are committed to strengthening those bonds," the statement said. "We look forward to continuing our discussions with SEIU-UHW to finalize a new contract."

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