USC healthcare workers authorize a 5-day strike – Daily News

on May27
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More than 1,500 healthcare workers at Keck Hospital of USC, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and other university clinics and call centers have authorized a five-day strike as they fight for better pay and benefits and the right to protest unsafe working conditions.

After a week of voting, more than two-thirds of workers cast ballots and 96% of the ballots cast supported the action.

No strike date has been set, and negotiations are scheduled to resume Thursday, May 27.

The workers –including nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, housekeepers, medical technicians and licensed vocational nurses — are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

“USC has mistreated its caregivers during the pandemic,” said Patricia Barahona, a patient care technician at Keck Hospital of USC. “We’ve put our lives on the line for our patients. Meanwhile, the university has cut our retirement benefits, made it harder for us to take sick leave and refused to offer hazard pay to maintain staffing even during the worst days of the COVID-19 surge.”

The union said USC cancelled its annual 5% contribution to employee retirement accounts last year and has so far rejected proposals from healthcare workers to reverse the takeaway.

USC responds

In a statement issued Wednesday, Keck Medicine of USC said it is in active bargaining with the National Union of Healthcare Workers for a new contract and is disappointed by the vote to authorize a strike.

“Negotiations are still underway, and we have reached tentative agreements on many issues,” the staement said. “Our proposals offer improvements in various areas, including staffing, workplace safety, above-market compensation and other issues important to our health system and employees. We remain hopeful that we can solidify an agreement without a work stoppage.”

Keck stressed that its hospital and clinic operations remain open and fully staffed with doctors, nurses and other clinical professionals.

Union outlines USC’s demands

Union leaders say USC is demanding a 9% increase in employee health care premiums and is refusing to restore holiday pay for workers at the Norris cancer hospital.

USC is refusing to guarantee emergency housing and hazard pay in the event of a future pandemic, they said, and it insists on retaining the right to subcontract workers. They also allege USC is seeking to eliminate the right of workers to hold pickets or public protests to inform the public about issues of concern.

USC said it hopes to avoid a strike.

“We remain hopeful that we can solidify an agreement without a work stoppage,” the statement said.

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