Laundry Workers Who Provide Linens to Hospitals Plan Strike for Thursday
Laundry workers represented by the Unite Here union on Thursday will strike at 15 Angelica plants that supply linens to health care facilities in Southern California, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Union officials say they want Angelica to agree to health and safety improvements, a slower work pace and family health insurance benefits. Union leaders also are asking that Angelica sign a neutrality agreement that would allow the union to organize workers at the company's 10 nonunion plants without company interference.
Union leaders said Angelica "has a history of health and safety violations," including $450,000 in actual and pending fines from federal and state health and safety agencies, according to the Times.
On Monday, union officials said the majority of workers at seven plants where contracts have expired and eight plants that are permitted to support picket lines are expected to walk off the job Thursday. In addition, union officials said union truck drivers and health care workers will not handle linens delivered by replacement workers.
Angelica officials say work at the plants will be done at the usual pace by supervisors and replacement workers.
Angelica President Steve O'Hara did not dispute the company's safety record but added that many of the safety inspections that led to citations were prompted by complaints by union sympathizers and that most violations were minor.
Steven Weiss, assistant director of business development for St. Vincent Medical Center, said, "We understand that there's a strike Thursday, and we will be completely unaffected and operations will be normal."
David Langness -- spokesperson for Tenet Healthcare, which operates 18 hospitals in California -- said, "We have ordered a significant amount of laundry in advance. We have stockpiled several weeks' worth in most of our hospitals" (Cleeland/Girion, Los Angeles Times, 4/3).
In related news, Sutter Health on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Unite Here for mailing postcards to Northern California residents that question whether linens used at Sutter hospitals are sanitary, the Sacramento Bee reports (Osterman, Sacramento Bee, 4/29).
The postcard displayed an infant and stated, "You may be bringing home more than your baby if you deliver at a Sutter birthing center" (Carlson, Modesto Bee, 4/29). The postcard states that Angelica does not ensure that linens are free of blood, feces and other pathogens (Sacramento Bee, 4/29).
The lawsuit accuses the union of singling out Sutter although other hospitals use Angelica services.
In a statement on Thursday, Sutter officials said, "Expectant moms have enough to think about without being frightened by outrageous and false allegations from a labor union with a political agenda" (Modesto Bee, 4/29).
Sutter spokesperson Karen Garner said, "This shameful attempt to scare the public cannot go without a response from our hospitals." She added that the hospital chain is suing for damages and an injunction to prevent future mailings. She also said linens received from Angelica are clean and the hospital chain is committed to sanitary care (Sacramento Bee, 4/29).
Unite Here spokesperson Amanda Cooper said the union named Sutter on the mailings because it is a major customer of Angelica and can influence the company's practices. She added, "We know from Angelica workers and health care workers that there are quality problems with the linens. The workers are pushed too hard to produce quickly and, as a result, the quality suffers" (Modesto Bee, 4/29).