Sutter Health Employees To Vote on One-Day Strike Over Issues in Contract Negotiations
Sutter Health employees in the next week will vote on whether they will hold a one-day strike in December to highlight issues in a "long-running contract dispute," the Contra Costa Times reports. The 90,000 Sutter employees, represented by SEIU Local 250, include vocational nurses, nurse assistants, lab assistants, dietary workers, housekeepers and supply workers at 10 facilities.
Workers at three San Francisco hospitals, one facility in Berkeley and Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland already have approved a strike. Workers at five additional Sutter hospitals will vote on the strike by Thursday.
According to Sal Rosselli, president of the union, the points of contention in the negotiations relate to hospital-operation issues. According to the Times, such issues "reflect larger trends in health care."
Rosselli said, "As mergers and consolidations have happened, we've gone from community hospitals to three or four large systems and it's gotten worse and worse in terms of how decisions are made. Unionized health care workers have become the last line of defense."
Rosselli said that the union is concerned about employees having input in decisions about staffing levels and wants Sutter to establish an education and training fund.
Carolyn Kemp, a spokesperson for Alta Bates Summit, said that the union's demands have changed during the negotiations and that training and staffing concerns are the "topic du jour." She said that the hospital maintains its own education program and that it is not interested in paying into a union program. Kemp added that employees at the facility have input in staffing issues.
Alta Bates Summit told employees that if they participate in the one-day strike, the facility will replace them with temporary workers for a full week, costing the employees five days of income.
Kemp said the union leaders are not in tune with members' concerns, including wages and benefits, and that the union is seeking to unify all Sutter facility employees under a single contract to increase membership.
Roselli said Kemp's charges were "untrue rhetoric" and that the union is "not trying to break new ground with Sutter," adding that Local 250 has negotiated contracts including training and staffing plans at other health systems.
Sutter Health spokesperson Bill Gleeson said, "We believe it's very unfortunate that [the union] again is going down this road despite strong and generous offers from our hospitals" (Laidman, Contra Costa Times, 11/12).