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Kaiser and CHW hospitals have among their goals the intent to be "An employer of choice in our community." They each have labor contracts which meet the industry standard. Their contracts are settled in a timely manner. Their employees don't go on open-ended strikes.

Sutter, the third big healthcare player in Northern California is a rogue elephant in the healthcare system-- their contracts aren't settled in a timely manner, they don't meet the industry standard, and their employees must go on strike to bring Sutter to the bargaining table.

After months of bargaining a contract with Sutter, SEIU UHW sought the services of a Federal Mediator to reach an agreement with Sutter's thirteen Bay Area hospitals. Through the mediator, an agreement was reached with one of the hospitals, Sutter California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), on the terms and proposals that UHW hoped would result in a settlement at CPMC and with Sutter Health and its affiliates. The Mediator issued his recommendation with the understanding that both parties had agreed to the terms and would support it.

The UHW bargaining team agreed to the Mediator's recommendation, but after a series of delays, Sutter and its affiliates rejected it, and CPMC rejected what it had agreed to. As a result of CPMC's failure to be accountable for the agreement it made, (an unfair labor practice), the UHW bargaining team voted to hold a strike at CMPC only.

What follows are photos from the strike taken on September 27th at CPMC California campus. Though the strikers are supported and have been visited by many luminaries from the Labor, political, and religious communities, on the day and time we visited, the picket line consisted of the heroic rank-and-file.



Hugh Lucas, Rehab Aide at Sutter California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), standing next to Albert M from Housekeeping at a side entrance to CPMC.

"The right to organize without employer interference is one of the issues in this dispute. Sutter was found guilty of violating the present contract last year by an Arbitrator, so we are trying to remove the present language and have the Employer be neutral in a union election, conducted by the NLRB with a secret ballot. It's an agreement that would be parallel to what Kaiser and CHW have."

What are the other sticking points: "We wanted a master contract with the other Sutter hospitals, but you make concessions to reach an agreement and that's what we did. The mediator was aware of UHW settlements with other hospitals, CHW, Kaiser, and Daughters of Charity. And, there's a small independent hospital, Chinese hospital, that is far, far less profitable than this hospital, and they agreed to industry standards. This hospital (CPMC) is immensely profitable and they won't do it."

And that's what this is basically about, industry standards? "Yes."

What has been Sutter's response: "Sutter's response has been misinformation, to put it politely. They have distorted 3rd party binding arbitration disputes and mischaracterized what the Mediator's proposal was. The Union has to get UHW's information to people.

To get UHW information out to union employees, strikers make house visits to fellow employees. "We have had people who were working, but who came out (with us)."

How much is the strike hurting CPMC? "If it was up to CPMC, I think this would be settled. Sutter told CPMC they could not agree to this or a domino effect would occur with the other Sutter hospitals."

What about "replacement:" workers? "People have been hired to replace us, but because this is an Unfair Labor Practice, we can't be replaced and have the right to return to our jobs. We're hearing that the people hired to work during the strike weren't given prior information that there was a strike situation. The person that runs the agency that recruits these people for the strike is less than an honorable person --according to an article in the Bay Guardian, he's had some legal problems. It's surprising that the hospital didn't research the background of someone that they're relying on to supply their workers. You wonder about the validity of what he has verified about the character of the people who are now working."

Hugh Lucas, Rehab Aide, CPMC.

  The Sutter California Pacific Medical Center California campus on California Street, San Francisco. The number of picketers varies from around 20 to more than 200, depending on the day and time.

  Lunch is part of a day on the picket line. Michael Tsegay usually works in Nutrition Services, but is on strike, serving his co-workers on the picket line. We hear that inside the hospital, the cafeteria, without their regular staff, is serving box lunches at 5 dollars a piece.

  "We've been without a contract since last November. We had a one day strike in December, and were locked out for four days. We went back to bargaining, but nothing changed. Under our old contract, we were behind the other hospitals in San Francisco. We need better wages and better benefits to match the other hospitals."---Tommy Kan, Housekeeping


Amadea Maraviglia (28 years in Sterile Processing) and Noli Valmacio, 30 years in Housekeeping in surgery on the picket line.

Who's doing your job while you're on strike? "My co-worker is doing double shifts. In Outpatient, 50% are still working. And there are people who are not in the union doing union jobs."

What has Sutter done to keep workers from striking? In July, two months before the strike, they sent us a letter at home, giving us 4% raises. They gave 9% raises to people who were most needed, or who they thought would not go on strike. They gave me 9%, but I'm 100% Union-- I'm not changing. I don't cross picket lines-- my son's a lawyer, so I know that's my right. That's why I'm here!"

How is the strike affecting patients? We have fewer surgery rooms going. When patients ask us about the strike, we tell them to "Call 600-6000" and complain."

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