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United Healthcare Workers Stand Up For Patients in Statewide Hospital Strike

October 29, 2008

OAKLAND, Calif., Oct. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Members of SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West (UHW) are on strike for 24 hours today 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.

At three of the Sutter facilities, nurses who are part of the California Nurses Association (CNA) are on strike in solidarity. At four additional Sutter hospitals, workers held informational pickets for several hours. More than 6,000 caregivers at 15 facilities took part in today’s action.

“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.”

The strike is part of a historic effort by United Healthcare Workers to improve healthcare across the state. For more than a decade, caregivers worked to line up the expiration dates of their contracts so that 75,000 workers in more than 200 facilities could bargain at the same time for a stronger voice. 59,000 caregivers have already won agreements that raise standards for patient care and improve training of staff at more than 60 facilities owned by Kaiser Permanente and Catholic Healthcare West.

“The improvements at Kaiser and Catholic Healthcare West show the gains for patients and workers that are possible when hospitals are willing to work together with their employees,” said Sal Rosselli, President of UHW. “It’s time for Sutter and Daughters of Charity to stop shutting frontline caregivers out of decisions that affect their patients.”

Sutter and DOCHS management have refused to accept almost every proposal workers have offered to improve patient care, and instead proposed dramatic cuts that would make it harder to recruit and retain experienced caregivers. Some managers have told workers they are hoping for a takeover of the local union by national SEIU President Andy Stern, because he would agree to lower standards for patients and workers.

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.

Daughters of Charity is one of the largest nonprofit healthcare systems in California, with approximately 1,600 hospital beds. During the past five years, DOCHS 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 of SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West,+1-323-365-2083

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




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