Cedars-Sinai workers launch 5-day strike, alleging unfair labor practices – San Bernardino Sun

Following weeks of failed labor negotiations, more than 2,000 workers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center launched a five-day strike Monday, May 9, alleging they’re underpaid, understaffed and struggling to provide adequate patient care.

Nearly 500 of the employees, represented by SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, gathered at the corner of Beverly and San Vicente boulevards early Monday with picket signs bearing such messages as “Patients Over Profits,” “Healthcare Heros Need Safe Staffing” and “Enough is Enough.”

They have accused the Los Angeles hospital of unfair labor practices and are urging the facility to bargain in good faith.

“We’ve been getting a lot of people honking their horns in support,” SEIU spokeswoman Renee Saldana said. “Patients have been slowing down their cars to ask what’s going on and we’ve got music going to keep our workers’ spirits up.”

The 2,000-plus maintenance employees, service staff and clinical support workers represent about 14% of Cedars’ workforce. Their previous three-year contract expired March 31.

“We definitely didn’t want to do this, but we’re very disappointed in how they’ve treated us over the last two and a half years,” said Luz Oglesby, a clinical partner at the Los Angeles facility. “We’ve risked our lives taking care of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they should take care of their workers.”

Oglesby, who has worked at the hospital for nearly 16 years, said Cedars has rejected the union’s request to ensure workers have an adequate supply of protective equipment to guard against the spread of the coronavirus and to keep pregnant and immunocompromised workers away from COVID patients.

Cedars President and CEO Thomas Priselac refuted that allegation.

In a May 8 letter to employees, patients and the community, Priselac said the hospital’s  precautions and safeguards are “consistent with federal and state guidelines to protect all employees who enter patient areas.”

“We also provided the same level of access to personal protective equipment to all employees—regardless of the job they performed,” he said, adding that the hospital continues to pay employees who are sick with COVID-19 while they recuperate so they don’t have to use their accrued vacation or sick leave to take time off.

Oglesby said workers are struggling to get by on the wages Cedars offers amid rising inflation. The hospital’s current starting wage is about $17 an hour.

“Some of my colleagues are living in their cars because they can’t afford housing,” she said.

Oglesby said the hospital has proposed annual pay increases of 2.25%, but Priselac said Cedars has offered the union average wage hikes of 16% over the length of the three-year contract, starting immediately upon ratification.

“We had hoped to avoid a strike with contract offers that would continue to reward our represented employees with market-leading pay — including substantial pay increases –for their hard work, excellent performance and dedication to the community,” Piselas said in his letter.

Management said the hospital will remain open and fully operational during the strike. The two sides are scheduled to resume labor negotations on Tuesday, May 10.

“While we are disappointed with the current outcome of recent negotiations, we stand ready to continue positive and collaborative talks with the union,” Priselac said. “We understand that a fair agreement can only come through constructive discussions at the bargaining table.”

State health and safety regulators fined Cedars $97,700 last year for seven citations that were in violation of Cal/OSHA regulations aimed at protecting workplace safety.

Four were classified as “serious” health and safety violations related to COVID-19 prevention, including a failure to immediately report the serious illness of several workers who contracted COVID-19, and a failure to maintain an adequate exposure-control plan to protect employees who are at increased risk of contracting certain airborne infections.

But Priselac said the hospital has consistently earned five stars from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services—the highest rating from the federal government and an honor earned by just 14% of U.S. hospitals surveyed.

Priselac further noted that Cedars is one of the Top 10 hospitals in the nation, consistently earning a spot on the honor roll of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals.”

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