Human management

Cedars-Sinai management escalates rhetoric on first day of union strike

The day members of the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West began a week-long strike over “unfair labor practices” at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, senior hospital officials publicly questioned on Monday. the union’s good faith in contract negotiations.

The SEIU-UHW, citing “unfair labor practices as well as concerns about employee and patient safety, understaffing and low wages,” walked off the job at 5 a.m. Monday.

The union represents some 2,000 certified practical nurses, surgical technicians, sterilization technicians, transporters, environmental services workers, plant operators and restaurant technicians. The hospital has about 14,000 employees in total.

Doctors, registered nurses and nurse practitioners are not part of the union and have not walked off the job – and Andy Ortiz, Cedars-Sinai’s human resources director, said the hospital is operating fully and not deferring any surgery or clinic appointment.

But on the first day of the union walkout, senior management launched a rhetorical offensive against the strikers.

“Unfortunately, SEIU-UHW management threatened to strike before we even sat down to exchange full proposals in early March,” CEO and President Tom Prizelac said in a letter to patients and employees on Monday.

“During long bargaining sessions, it became clear to us that union leaders never intended to reach an agreement with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on a new non-strike contract. This became clearer to us over the weekend when the union broke off negotiations without ever responding to our last offer and instead decided to continue its strike.

Prizelac also wrote that he hoped to “avoid a strike with contract offers that would continue to reward our represented employees with top-tier pay – including substantial wage increases – for their hard work, excellent performance and dedication. to the community”.

Later Monday, Ortiz echoed that tone, saying, “The… thing that’s important to know is that we’re really disappointed in the union. We have a very long relationship with them. Over the past 35 years, we have reached agreement on 11 different agreements. And what we do know this time is that even before we put a full offer on the table, the union learned they were threatening to strike. So we knew it was a sign that they were about to go on strike before we could even come to an agreement.

Ortiz added, “They deserve more money, which is why we offered a 16% increase over a three-year period, which coincides with market best compensation practices.”

Union representative Renee Saldaña told the City News Service that the 16% figure was never presented to the union for all of its workers.

“They didn’t say that in any proposal they made to us,” Saldaña said. “They made a lower bid than half the workers on the first day and then backed off.

“Their offer does not keep up with inflation and leaves hundreds of essential healthcare workers earning less than the minimum wage rates advertised by Target, Verizon and Ralphs. On top of that, they are demanding the ability to charge low-wage workers even more for their health care. They even refused to commit to protective gear, exposure notifications, and other safety protocols, even after receiving massive fines from OSHA.

She said the union had been involved in talks over the weekend and would be back at the bargaining table on Tuesday.

Saldaña said workers plan to picket until 7 p.m. Friday unless an agreement is reached. Workers scheduled for shifts at 7 p.m. Friday and beyond would then return to work, she said.

“Cedars-Sinai health care workers call on their employer to stop committing unfair labor practices and bargain in good faith,” the union said in a statement last week.

“Employees are also concerned about receiving basic protections to keep patients and workers safe. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center was recently awarded a “D” hospital safety rating by independent consumer healthcare watchdog, The Leapfrog Group. The “D” rating is a downgrade from Cedars’ previous security rating of “C”, which was issued in the spring of 2021.”

Specifically, the union’s statement cited “below average” ratings in infection control; a range of surgical issues; safety issues such as pressure sores and blood clots; and practices to avoid mistakes.

“Earlier this month, Cedars-Sinai employees picketed to protest the hospital’s threat to workers and patients after Cal/OSHA issued seven citations to the hospital for violating OSHA regulations designed to protect workplace safety,” the union statement said. “Four of the citations were classified as serious health and safety violations related to the prevention of COVID-19.”

The union also argues that the hospital failed to bargain in good faith.

“We are very frustrated that despite risking our lives to provide top-notch healthcare to our patients, Cedars-Sinai management has not bargained in good faith and continues to commit unfair labor practices. . Management does not appear to take patient or worker safety seriously,” Luz Oglesby, the hospital’s clinical partner, said in a union statement.

“In our last round of negotiations, Cedars-Sinai rejected our proposals on PPE inventory, COVID exposure notifications, distancing of pregnant and immunocompromised workers from COVID patients, and other safety measures. We demand basic protections in the workplace and respect for the life and health of caregivers and patients. »

Prizelac wrote that the hospital will remain open and fully operational during the strike.

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

“Cedars-Sinai’s goals have not changed: the safety and well-being of our patients is sacrosanct. We are here and ready to talk. Our patients and employees deserve nothing less.