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UCSF Children’s Hospital Oakland workers authorize second strike

More than 1,300 NUHW members at UCSF Children’s Hospital Oakland have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a three-day strike in response to UCSF’s refusal to bargain in good faith after more than a year of contract negotiations.

The workers, who include licensed vocational nurses, medical technicians, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, housekeepers, mental health therapists, clerical staff and nursing assistants, have not submitted a formal strike notice to the hospital, and no strike date has been set as contract talks continue next month.

On May 23, a delegation of Bargaining Committee members met with Hospital CEO Matt Cook to give their perspective on what has been a frustratingly slow bargaining process and explain what workers need to accomplish in order to settle contracts and avert another strike.

Most non-emergency services at the hospital and its satellite East Bay clinics were unavailable on April 19, when the workers held a one-day strike. Registered nurses and other caregivers represented by the California Nurses Association and the Caregivers and Healthcare Employees Union held a sympathy strike as did the hospital’s stationary engineers, represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 39.

NUHW’s bargaining committees returned to the bargaining table following the strike with potential compromises, but UCSF’s negotiators refused to propose any compromises of their own.

“The lack of respect that UCSF has shown to Oakland and East Bay since it affiliated with Children’s Hospital is now being reflected in how it treats its workers,” said Jackki Patrick, a patient care assistant. “Our proposals are geared toward preserving healthcare services and workers in the East Bay, but that doesn’t seem to be a priority for UCSF. We should be able to settle contracts without another strike, but that will require UCSF bargaining with us in good faith to address the serious issues that impact us and the families we serve.”

Workers kicked off the strike authorization vote with a noontime rally outside the hospital on May 17 and voting ended two days later. More than 90 percent of voters in all three bargaining committees voted to authorize a three-day strike.

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland is one of five Level One pediatric trauma centers in California. The hospital accepts all patients no matter their income level or insurance status, and more than 70 percent of patients get their health coverage through Medi-Cal.

While a 2014 affiliation agreement that put UCSF Health in control of the non-profit 223-bed Oakland hospital and satellite clinics was touted as the best approach for strengthening the institution’s finances, doctors and other caregivers in the East Bay have repeatedly raised concerns about UCSF under-resourcing care and making families travel across the Bay to UCSF’s children’s hospital in San Francisco.

Since UCSF took control of the hospital in 2014, it has moved most cardiac procedures to San Francisco, cut staffing in half for early intervention mental health services and faced ongoing staffing shortages that currently force babies leaving the NICU to wait months for feeding therapy.

In recent negotiations, UCSF has rejected proposals that would:

  • Require that Children’s Hospital Oakland workers be offered comparable positions should UCSF take full ownership of the hospital or merge specific departments.
  • Provide sufficient notice of any further service or job reductions in the East Bay.
  • Ensure that all Children’s Hospital Oakland workers receive market-rate wages.
  • Stop its wage theft practice of requiring caregivers with advanced training to perform higher level work, while keeping them in lower-paid classifications.

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