ROLLING STRIKE: Shuts Down MLK/Drew Trauma Unit
Los Angeles County's rolling strike "assumed a threatening new character" yesterday, as patients were turned away from Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center when a bulk of the hospital's staff walked out to protest issues such as staffing shortages and pay, the Los Angeles Times reports. The 24-hour walkout forced the South Los Angeles hospital to close its trauma unit --the second busiest in the county -- as well as numerous clinics, and low-income patients who had waited months for appointments were turned away. The walkout followed failed negotiation sessions between the hospital and the SEIU Local 660, which represents 47,000 of the county's workers; King/Drew is the first of four hospitals the union will strike in the next few days. The SEIU had proposed resuming negotiations Oct. 11, though the county says it won't come back to the table unless the union cancels plans for next week's countywide strike. But Local 660 responded yesterday by filing an unfair-labor grievance accusing county managers of "trying to intimidate strikers," further compounding the negotiation problems. The county has offered raises of 9% across three years -- which have been accepted by other unions, the Times notes -- but the union is demanding 15.5%, saying that rate would bring its members' pay back to its inflation-adjusted 1990 level.
Unionized Physicians Join Picket Lines
The County Board of Supervisors balked at the union's requested salary hikes, saying that it cannot afford the $97 million that such an increase would cost, especially considering a "looming" $184 million deficit in its health department. Besides the monetary issue, the striking medical workers at King/Drew are also protesting inadequate staffing they contend has resulted in a 1-10 nurse to patient ratio. The strike began on Wednesday evening, as half of the overnight shift -- including 116 of 141 nurses -- failed to report to work. Many organized physicians stayed on the job through the morning, but some walked out at noon yesterday to join the picket lines, with beepers intact in case of an emergency. Meanwhile, patients were "piled up" on gurneys outside the ED while the workers marched outside. A "skeleton crew" of physicians and nurses "struggled" to deliver services and handle emergency cases, according to the county's chief administrative officer (Riccardi/Gee, Los Angeles Times, 10/6). Officials reported that by yesterday afternoon, 1,250 of 1,997 day staff members didn't report to work (Jablon, Associated Press, 10/6). The one-day strikes will continue today at Harbor/UCLA Medical Center and next Tuesday at County-USC Medical Center, Olive View Medical Center, Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center and High Desert Medical Center (Riccardi/Gee, Los Angeles Times, 10/6).