Workers authorize strike at 3 Tenet hospitals in Southern California

Workers at three Tenet Healthcare hospitals in Southern California have authorized a strike that could begin as early as August, according to the union that represents them. 

The authorization does not mean a strike will occur. However, it allows the National Union of Healthcare Workers to call one.

The walkout would involve union members at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital, Los Alamitos Medical Center and Lakewood Regional Medical Center, including respiratory therapists, housekeepers, nursing assistants, medical technicians, emergency and operating room staff and dietary workers. 

The union cited concerns about staffing and subcontracting, as well as the profit Dallas-based Tenet posted in the second quarter of this year. 

"Tenet has grown richer during the pandemic, while our hospitals here in Southern California remain dangerously understaffed and many of us can't afford health insurance," Amy Cornelius, a housekeeper at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital, said in a July 22 news release. "We have been sounding the alarm throughout the pandemic that Tenet needs to take better care of its patients and workers. Tenet has failed to act. They have left us no choice but to strike."

The National Union of Healthcare Workers represents nearly 1,000 workers at Tenet hospitals in Southern California, including more than 612 caregivers employed by Fountain Valley Regional and 225 subcontract housekeepers and food service workers who work at Tenet hospitals in Fountain Valley, Lakewood and Los Alamitos.

Compass Group — the vendor providing services at Fountain Valley Regional, Lakewood Regional Medical Center and Los Alamitos Medical Center — is also in contract negotiations with the union. Tenet said in a statement that it is not participating in the Compass Health-union negotiations, but it remains hopeful that both parties will reach a positive outcome in the end. 

Regarding its negotiations with the union, Tenet said: "This [the strike authorization] is merely a negotiating tactic by the labor union. We continue to bargain in good faith with them in hopes of reaching a successful resolution for Fountain Valley Regional Hospital."  

"Counter to the union's claims, the pandemic resulted in an unprecedented strain on the entire healthcare system and the CARES Act support the three hospitals received was vital in helping to partially offset challenges of the pandemic. This government support was used solely for the purpose of providing COVID relief to our providers in accordance with the terms and conditions of the support funding.  Any claim to the contrary is not based in fact, and is not credible," the for-profit hospital operator said. 

Bargaining for the subcontracted housekeepers and food service workers began last September, and bargaining for the direct Tenet employees started in January. Negotiations between Tenet and the union are scheduled to resume Aug. 2. 

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