Healthcare workers picket West Anaheim Medical Center – Daily News

on Jul14
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In what has become an ongoing mantra at area hospitals, healthcare workers at West Anaheim Medical Center picketed the facility Thursday, July 13, demanding higher wages and increased staffing.

In December, nearly 200 nursing assistants, emergency medical technicians, housekeepers, food service workers and pharmacy and lab techs at the hospital voted to join the National Union of Healthcare Workers in hopes of seeing their concerns met.

But they say management is “not even budging.”

They are seeking an end to “poverty wages” they say have compromised patient care and prompted many caregivers to leave for better-paying jobs. (Photo courtesy of National Union of Healthcare Workers)

Workers at Thursday’s rally fanned out in front of the hospital with signs reading “Patients before profits” and “Patient health, not corporate wealth” while traffic passed close by.

They are seeking an end to “poverty wages” they say have compromised patient care and prompted many caregivers to leave for better-paying jobs. The union claims the Prime Healthcare-owned medical center is insisting on keeping salaries for many workers below $20 an hour.

For some, it’s considerably less.

Vanessa Marin has worked as a housekeeper at the West Anaheim facility for six years and makes $16 an hour. She’d like that bumped to at least $19.

“I believe we need to be paid more,” the 35-year-old Cypress resident said. “We have rent, bills and kids to pay for. I take Uber everywhere because I can’t afford to have a car.”

In a statement issued Thursday, West Anaheim spokesman Cheyenne Chitry said the hospital has bargained in good faith with NUHW leadership since March 14.

“There have been 10 negotiation sessions and tentative agreements have been reached between the parties,” he said. “We value our healthcare team and are grateful for the dedicated service they provide to our patients.”

Chitry added that the hospital continuously supports its caregivers, “emphasizing safety and a healthy work environment” in addition to growth opportunities, including continuing education, tuition reimbursement and career development.

Still, newly unionized workers say they’re being paid less than other hospital employees who joined NUHW years ago. Those workers receive an additional $2 an hour for working weekends and an extra $6 an hour for working nights. Union officials say the hospital is refusing to provide the same benefits for the newly unionized staff.

Pharmacy tech Jamie Curiel said employees are feeling disenfranchised.

“Our jobs directly impact the care that patients receive, but management acts like our work isn’t important,” Curiel said in a statement. “Because our hospital treats us as second-class, patients often find themselves waiting too long for care because of high turnover rates and unsafe staffing levels.”

Michael Camarena, a West Anaheim pharmacy tech with more than six years experience, said he makes $22.70 an hour. He says that’s well below what he should be earning.

“I’ve seen other union pay grades, and with my experience, I should be near $26 to $27 an hour,” the 32-year-old Norwalk resident said. “I’ve seen postings at other facilities for pharmacy techs and they’re paying $21 to $22 an hour for people with zero experience.”

Camarena said many pharmacy techs at West Anaheim leave or opt to work part-time because of the low pay, stress and heavy workload.

“What they offer just isn’t enough,” he said.

An ongoing trend

In recent months, healthcare workers throughout Southern California have waged rallies, pickets and strikes to lobby for higher wages and increased staffing and improved safety conditions.

Workers from several Los Angeles County nursing homes kicked off the first of a series of protests Thursday, July 6, claiming severe understaffing and high turnover are undermining patient care. They plan to hold eight pickets over the course of three weeks in July.

Nurses at Greater El Monte Community Hospital and Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park have voted to authorize strikes, claiming they’re short-staffed, overworked and dealing with patient violence.

And nurses at Encino Hospital Medical Center say they’re dealing with incidents of extreme violence, including one in which a doctor and two nurses were stabbed by the same patient.

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