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Workers ready to picket West Anaheim Medical Center

As hospital management refuses to pay market rate wages that reflect high inflation rates, nearly 200 healthcare workers at West Anaheim Medical Center are ready to escalate their contract fight.

In a nearly unanimous vote this month, the workers, who include nursing assistants, housekeepers, food service workers, monitor and pharmacy techs, voted to hold an informational picket on July 13.

“I fully understand that negotiations are a dance, a haggle, but when you don’t even attempt to accommodate anything at all, it’s very insulting,” said Michael Camarena, a pharmacy tech, who’s been attending recent bargaining sessions. “In the end, it makes me feel that I’m not appreciated where I work, that management doesn’t think that my job is important.”

After winning their union election last December, the 179 workers who are part of NUHW’s Service Unit at the hospital began negotiating their first contract in March. Agreement was reached quickly on non-economic issues, but progress has slowed due to the hospital’s insufficient economic proposals.

Management’s most recent proposal would not raise wages enough to match compensation for NUHW members at other Orange County hospitals such as Fountain Valley Regional Hospital, where members recently won a contract with a 17 percent average wage increase.

In addition, management’s proposals do not include extra pay for working nights and weekends, which workers in NUHW’s Tech Unit at the hospital have secured in their contracts.

“All of us, from (housekeeping) to labs — our jobs matter,” Camarena said. “But from management’s point of view, it’s like we don’t matter at all.”

Fair pay for healthcare workers does matter to local elected leaders, including Congressman Lou Correa, who attended a recent bargaining session.

Camarena, who got to meet Correa, appreciated his support.

“It made a statement that we’re not alone in this fight, that we have support from outside sources who stand up for us,” he said. “We have somebody saying, ‘yes, they deserve that.’”

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