Salinas, California - Last week, Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital management demanded that caregivers refrain from saying anything “negative” to reporters about the hospital as a non-negotiable condition of contract settlement.
Dated October 7, SVMH presented 650 SVMH caregivers with a “last, best and final offer” that included “No more negative press” in its list of demands for settlement. In effect, SVMH has informed its employees that they must choose between agreeing to a gag order that would severely restrict their role as patient advocates and continuing to work without a contract.
SVMH’s demand is of questionable legality and may infringe on workers’ First Amendment rights under the Constitution.
On numerous occasions this year, SVMH workers have spoken to members of the media about the deteriorating conditions for patient care at the hospital that have resulted from staff cutbacks, claims borne out by the hospital’s own declining patient satisfaction scores after the fourth quarter of 2010.
SVMH workers have also spoken to reporters and exposed the hospital’s board’s secret plans to privatize SVMH, and its illegal efforts to conceal its discussions from the public.
Caregivers have rejected management’s non-negotiable offer, refusing on principle to forfeit their right to advocate for patients. NUHW members at SVMH further reject management’s effort to force workers into complicity with the Board’s efforts to conceal its privatization schemes from the public. NUHW will be filing an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the hospital for its unlawful proposal, and on October 18, SVMH workers are scheduled to engage in the second 24-hour strike this year against the hospital’s unfair labor practices.