October 20, 2008

United Healthcare Workers to Strike at 10 Hospitals Owned By Sutter Health and Daughters of Charity

OAKLAND, Calif., Oct. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Members of SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW) will strike on Oct. 29 at five Sutter Health facilities, five hospitals owned by Daughters of Charity Health System (DOCHS), and Alliance Clinic, in response to months of unfair labor practices and bad-faith negotiation by hospital management.

The decision to strike comes less than a week after UHW members negotiated a landmark master agreement with Catholic Healthcare West (CHW), the state's largest hospital corporation. That agreement will bring to CHW hospitals many of the improvements already in place at Kaiser Permanente facilities across the state, and shows the gains for patients and workers that are possible when hospitals are willing to work together with their employees.

"A good contract is vital for good patient care," said Beverly Griffith, an environmental services worker at Sutter Summit. "Without a voice in staffing levels, we can't make sure patients get the attention they need. My department is in disarray because so much work has been outsourced to people who don't know our patients. When you don't have a stable workforce, patients suffer."

Workers will strike for 24 hours, beginning at 6:00 a.m. on Oct. 29. At three of the striking Sutter facilities, nurses who are part of the California Nurses Association (CNA) will strike in solidarity. UHW members at four additional Sutter hospitals will picket outside their facilities for several hours on the same day.

More than 2,400 DOCHS caregivers have been in negotiations since March. 3,300 caregivers at Sutter hospitals have been bargaining since May and working without a contract since September 30. In negotiations, Sutter and DOCHS management have refused to accept any proposal workers have offered to improve patient care, and instead proposed dramatic cuts that would make it harder to recruit and retain experienced staff.

"No one wants to strike, but Daughters of Charity left us no choice," said Karen Linzy, a central supply technician at St. Francis Medical Center. "Our patients deserve better staffing levels, and caregivers trained on the latest advancements in the delivery of patient care. We're only asking for the same gains that caregivers at CHW hospitals achieved for themselves and their patients."

Sutter is the largest hospital corporation in Northern California and one of the most profitable in the nation, with $8 billion in assets and 5,663 hospital beds. Despite its financial success, Sutter has pushed for its employees to accept conditions far below industry standards. Sutter workers are seeking more access to training and education, safer staffing levels to protect patients, and protection from arbitrary layoffs.

Daughters of Charity is one of the largest nonprofit healthcare systems in California, with approximately 1,600 hospital beds. During the past five years, DCHS has made more than $188 million in profits. In its most recent annual report, DOCHS President and CEO Robert Issai describe the hospital system as "financially strong" and "on a path of stability and growth.

With more than 150,000 members, SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West is the fastest-growing healthcare union in the United States. We represent healthcare workers in all job classifications and all healthcare settings, including hospitals, homecare, nursing homes and clinics. Our mission is to achieve high-quality healthcare for all.

Contact: Sadie Crabtree, 323-365-2083

SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West

CONTACT: Sadie Crabtree, SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West,+1-323-365-2083

Web Site: http://www.seiu-uhw.org/