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    Thursday
    Mar292012

    San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs, and Justice Pronounce Sutter/CPMC’s Special Deal “Bad for San Francisco”

    Broad-based coalition finds proposed development agreement protects Sutter/CPMC’s profits, but fails to meet the City’s needs for healthcare and jobs, or to address negative impacts on housing and traffic

    March 28, 2012 - Contact Leighton Woodhouse: (213) 948-3545

    SAN FRANCISCO - This morning, on the steps of City Hall, dozens of healthcare and housing advocates, union members and neighborhood representatives belonging to the citywide coalition San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs, and Justice rallied to critique the proposed development agreement between the City and County of San Francisco and Sutter/CPMC, and to debunk misleading claims by hospital executives and the Mayor’s office on behalf of the deal.

    In a prepared statement, the coalition declared:

    “…the proposed development agreement as we understand it is a special deal that is good for Sutter/CPMC, but bad for San Francisco –– a deal that falls far short of the Mayor’s original ‘asks’; that relieves Sutter/CPMC of responsibilities met by other private non-profit hospitals; that does not provide the healthcare and jobs City residents need; that fails to address the affordable housing, traffic, and neighborhood impacts the project will produce; and that leaves City taxpayers to foot the bill for the project’s failures in each and every one of these areas.”

    Emily Lee, Lead Organizer with the Chinese Progressive Association, addressed the shortcomings of the proposed agreement’s healthcare provisions:

    “Under this proposal, Sutter/CPMC will continue failing to provide its fair share of charity care, Healthy San Francisco and Medi-Cal services, and will continue shifting tens of millions of dollars in costs every year to San Francisco taxpayers. Meanwhile, St. Luke’s will be shrunk to one-third its current size and will face significant further service closures at Sutter/CPMC’s discretion. These conditions are clearly insufficient to protect San Francisco’s healthcare.”

    Speaking to the proposal’s jobs provisions, Sal Rosselli, President of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, said:

    “Sutter/CPMC’s refusal to guarantee the jobs, wages, and benefits of its permanent employees who are facing redeployment will put thousands of San Franciscans at economic risk, the vast majority of them women, people of color, and recent immigrants. Equally bad, Sutter/CPMC will commit to only 40 local hires for permanent positions each year over a five-year period –– less than 5% of the permanent jobs it claims the project will ultimately create. This number is shockingly low, sets a terrible precedent for future development agreements, and demonstrates the badly mistaken approach adopted by the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.”

    Longtime affordable housing leader Calvin Welch of the Council of Community Housing Organizations explained the multi-million dollar shortfall in Sutter/CPMC’s payments to offset the proposed development’s impact on affordable housing demand:

    “Sutter/CPMC’s special deal violates the core principle that developers must ‘meet the housing demand they generate, particularly the need for affordable housing for lower income workers.’ In fact, Sutter/CPMC will pay to the City less than half the sum needed to offset the affordable housing demand its project will create, shortchanging the Mayor’s original request by almost $40 million, while diverting approximately $25 million to employee down payment assistance that will do absolutely nothing to ease San Francisco’s increasingly severe affordable housing shortage.”

    Marlayne Morgan of the Cathedral Hill Neighbors Association and San Francisco Neighborhood Network  criticized the plan’s failure to properly analyze and mitigate the traffic and transit problems it would produce:

    “By failing to analyze and address critical concerns regarding traffic congestion, public transit, parking, pedestrian safety, bicycle safety, and neighborhood impacts arising from the predicted 28,000 trips every day to and from the proposed Cathedral Hill Hospital, the deal sets the stage for a gridlock nightmare and serious threats to emergency services if the hospital is built as intended at Geary and Van Ness, one of the busiest traffic and transit intersections in San Francisco.”

    Steve Woo of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation decried the deal’s impact on City taxpayers:

    “City taxpayers will pay for the charity care, Medi-Cal, and Healthy San Francisco services Sutter/CPMC fails to provide. City taxpayers will pay to cover the affordable housing costs Sutter/CPMC fails to offset. City taxpayers will pay to address the traffic congestion, public transit, pedestrian safety, bicycle safety and neighborhood impacts Sutter/CPMC fails to analyze or to mitigate. City taxpayers will also continue paying the exorbitant prices Sutter/CPMC charges health insurance plans serving City employees and retirees, as the special deal does not limit price gouging, but only the hospital’s ability to recoup the development agreement’s costs.”

    In closing, Pilar Schiavo of the California Nurses Association said:

    “Sutter/CPMC’s special deal is bad for San Francisco and should not be approved by the Board of Supervisors without amendments to address its deficiencies in each of the areas we have identified. In the weeks ahead, we will be mobilizing to demand improvements and to help Supervisors craft an amended agreement that ensures Sutter/CPMC is rebuilt the right way.”

    ###

    Friday
    Mar162012

    18 SVMH Pharmacists Join NUHW

    Yesterday, eighteen pharmacists at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (SVMH) became the newest members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).

    The formerly non-union caregivers have received no pay increase in three years and lost thousands of dollars each when senior administrators changed their pension plan. With the hospital’s future uncertain, the pharmacists, whose department has already experienced instability when its supervisors were subcontracted out, want to make sure that they have a voice in patient care decisions whoever the new owner of the hospital turns out to be.

    ###

    Thursday
    Mar082012

    NUHW Calls for SVMH Board Members Gattis and Wardwell to Resign in Light of Audit Report

    Union reiterates auditor’s call for criminal investigations by County District Attorney

    Salinas, California - The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), representing 750 caregivers at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (SVMH), applauds the California State Auditor’s report, released this morning, that describes the pervasive lack of transparency and numerous conflicts of interest that characterize the hospital’s governing Board of Directors, and furthermore calls for Jim Gattis and Harry Wardwell to step down from the Board in light of the report’s findings.

    The report states that the audit unearthed “11 instances in which the Health Care System had business relationships between 2006 and 2010 with entities in which its executives or board members had economic interests,” most notably former CEO Sam Downing’s $50,000 investment in a bank with which the Board voted to deposit $1 million, and Board Member Harry Wardwell’s role in overseeing the hospital’s finances while also serving as Regional President of a bank that holds over $15 million in SVMH deposits. 

    Last April, NUHW members at SVMH picketed the Salinas branch office of Rabobank to protest Wardwell’s clear conflict of interest.  The hospital claimed then that “there was no conflict of interest.”

    NUHW concurs with the auditor’s conclusion that, contrary to the hospital’s claims, “the board may have violated conflict-of-interest laws” in the case of Wardwell’s financial relationship with the bank, and that “the board itself may have violated Section 1090 because one of its members arguably is financially interested in the contract, in that he receives a salary from the bank, and because the bank likely received a financial benefit as a result of its contract with the Health Care System.”

    The auditor further notes that “willful violations of Section 1090 are criminal acts punishable by a fine or imprisonment, and the public officials committing these violations are forever disqualified from holding any office in the State,” and that “(b)ecause of our concerns regarding possible violations, we referred this matter, as well as the one involving the former CEO, to the Monterey County District Attorney.”

    The auditor’s report describes numerous other instances of financial mismanagement and possible corruption, including the hospital’s donating $54,000 to the California Rodeo for a sponsorship that included perks such as tickets to box seating without considering how the donation furthered any public purpose.

    Another major beneficiary of hospital donations is the California International Airshow, which was founded by Jim Gattis and for which Harry Wardwell serves as Executive Director.

    According to the auditor’s report, the hospital distributed to employees tickets to the rodeo and to the California Airshow that it had received in exchange for sponsorships without tracking who it distributed them to. The auditor notes that:

    “When public officials receive tickets to events such as the airshow and the rodeo from their agencies, the tickets could be considered either income or gifts. State regulations require the agencies to publicly disclose who received the tickets. If the tickets are considered gifts, they may also be economic interests that could prohibit the officials receiving them from making decisions involving the entities that provided the gifts….”

    NUHW wholeheartedly agrees with the auditor’s findings that the hospital failed to ensure transparency in its consideration of executive compensation levels, particularly for former CEO Sam Downing, who at the time was the third highest-paid public employee in the state. The auditor’s report asserts that the Board repeatedly violated the Ralph M. Brown Act by conducting meetings in closed session that are legally required to be open to the public. Notably, the auditor discovered that the Board violated the Brown Act in discussions related to the retirement benefit enhancements for Downing that led to the Los Angeles Times article that brought state and national media attention to the hospital’s gross financial mismanagement.

    Currently, some hospital board members are resisting the implementation of a new district-based election system for three of its five seats, including those of Gattis and Wardwell. NUHW believes that given the possibility that some of the Board’s members engaged in criminal conduct, it is more urgent than ever to ensure that the Board is more directly accountable to Salinas voters through a district voting process. NUHW also believes that to restore public trust in the hospital’s leadership, it is necessary for Jim Gattis and Harry Wardwell to relinquish their seats on the Board immediately.

    ##

    Tuesday
    Mar062012

    Doctors San Pablo Caregivers to Picket Hospital Tomorrow

    What: Informational picket*

    Where: Doctors Medical Center San Pablo, 2000 Vale Road, San Pablo, 94806

    When: Wednesday, March 7, 11:30am to 1:30pm

    Visuals: Caregivers marching in front of hospital with picket signs and bullhorns

    San Pablo, California - Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) at Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo will engage in an informational picket tomorrow, Wednesday, March 7, from 11:30am to 1:30pm.

    Last summer, caregivers at Doctors San Pablo reached agreement with management for a union contract with no benefit cuts. Recognizing the hospital’s financial challenges, NUHW members agreed to forestall any wage increase until a measure for a parcel tax to bring an additional $5 million to the medical center was passed by voters. Both parties agreed to re-open discussion of wages in February of this year in the event of the measure’s passage. Voters approved Measure J last November with a 74 percent ‘yes’ vote.

    When workers sat down to bargain wages with management last month, the hospital offered a one percent wage increase, offset by proposed cuts to workers’ health insurance. At the same time that administrators are proposing benefit cuts to hospital staff, management is paying for the services of Wellspring Partners, an out-of-state management consulting firm with origins in the Enron scandal of 2001.

    “In a time of severe economic difficulty for working families like ours, we made a sacrifice to help solidify the hospital’s finances,” said Duka Ristic, Lead Ultrasound Tech. “Now management is trying to take advantage of the situation to give us a raw deal.”

    NUHW represents about 350 workers at Doctors San Pablo, including Respiratory Care Practitioners, Licensed Vocational Nurses, Certified Nursing Assistants, Radiology Technologists, Housekeepers and Dietary workers.

    *An informational picket is a public demonstration. It is not a work stoppage.

    Monday
    Mar052012

    Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Workers Endorse Sergio Sanchez for Supervisor

    Salinas, California - Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (SVMH) unanimously voted on Friday to endorse Salinas City Council Member Sergio Sanchez for Monterey County Supervisor.

    As both Council Member and as District Director to Assembly Member Luis Alejo, Sanchez played an indispensable role in bringing the long-standing recent labor dispute at SVMH to a resolution. While trusted by both parties for his honesty and integrity, Sanchez was unflagging in his commitment to ensuring that workers were treated fairly at the bargaining table, that patients were not put at risk by unnecessary cuts to hospital staff, and that the negotiating process was transparent to community residents and taxpayers.

    “We’d be hard pressed to have found a more principled and honest broker than Sergio Sanchez,” said John Borsos, Vice President of NUHW. “Sergio deserves a huge part of the credit for steering events at SVMH toward a resolution that safeguards patient care for the long term in the Salinas Valley.”

    “We couldn’t have done it without Sergio,” said Yolanda Zazueta, a Certified Nursing Aide at SVMH. “He’s going to make a great County Supervisor and we were proud to endorse him.”

    The endorsement vote was held at a candidate forum on Friday at the hospital.

    ###

    Wednesday
    Feb292012

    DMHC's Cease and Desist Order Exposes Kaiser Permanente's Pattern and Practice of Denying Care to Mental Health Patients

    The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) applauds the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) for issuing a cease and desist order to Kaiser Foundation Health Plan yesterday in response to the HMO’s pattern and practice of denying physical, occupational and speech therapy services to patients with “non-physical” conditions, including mental illnesses and developmental delays.

    “DMHC’s action reinforces everything caregivers have said about Kaiser’s failure to provide its patients with timely and appropriate mental health services,” said Clem Papazian, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Kaiser Oakland. “Kaiser has been engaged in an illegal pattern and practice of denying patients care for ‘non-physical conditions’ at the very same time that it’s made more than $6.1 billion in profits over three years, boosted its CEO’s pay to more than $9 million a year, and significantly raised rates for over a million Californians. Kaiser needs to stop padding its profits at patients’ expense.”

    Denying patients care for certain mental health conditions is a violation of California’s Mental Health Parity Law. As Kaiser clinicians pointed out in a report last year, Kaiser routinely delays appointments for mental health services beyond legal time limits, pushes patients in need of individual counseling into group therapy settings, and falsifies patient records to conceal these illegal practices. DMHC’s action, based on complaints from Kaiser patients, demonstrates that Kaiser’s unlawful pattern of discrimination against mental health patients extends even to services beyond those documented in the report. 

    NUHW’s report is available for download at: http://www.nuhw.org/caredenied

    Tuesday
    Feb212012

    NUHW and International Association of Machinists Form Partnership in First Move Toward Potential Affiliation

    The following is a joint statement from the respective leaders of the National Union of Healthcare Workers and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers:

    The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) have signed a letter of intent concerning a potential affiliation of NUHW with the IAM.

    The signing of the letter of intent, approved by the Executive Boards of both unions, initiates a process whereby representatives of each union will begin to work out the terms of a possible affiliation. Any final decision on affiliation will be subject to approval by the leadership of the IAM and a membership vote of NUHW. Immediately, IAM and NUHW will begin working together to organize the unorganized, and each union will provide mutual support in collective bargaining and in other areas.

    Both NUHW and IAM put a high value on member democracy, fighting for and protecting workers’ contractual standards, and organizing the unorganized.

    With 700,000 members in North America, the IAM, founded in 1888, is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, and is the leading union among aerospace and transportation workers. The IAM is one of a handful of international unions in which members have the right to directly elect their international union officers. The IAM has been at the forefront of protecting workers’ rights and has been actively organizing the unorganized, including winning a tough representation election at IKEA in Maryland, the first victory in the United States against the giant retailer.

    The National Union of Healthcare Workers was created in January 2009. Since its founding, NUHW has become the fastest growing healthcare workers’ union in the country, representing more than 9,000 caregivers in California and Michigan. NUHW began when United Healthcare Workers West (UHW), a 150,000-member California-based local union of the Service Employees International Union, was seized by Andy Stern, the president of SEIU. Stern, with the support of current SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, commandeered the local union for its refusal to give him the unilateral right to appoint bargaining committees and to negotiate with employers without membership input or involvement, and for opposing the forced transfer of 65,000 nursing home and homecare workers from UHW into another, corruption-plagued SEIU local union without a vote of the affected workers. In 2012, NUHW will be competing with SEIU to represent 43,000 healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente in the largest union election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board since 1941.

    “In the IAM, we believe we have found the partner that will enable healthcare workers to achieve their dreams of building a strong, democratic, and progressive healthcare workers’ union,” said Sal Rosselli, president of NUHW. “We look forward to working with the IAM to build a movement of healthcare workers, like IAM has done in aerospace, transportation and other industries.”

    “NUHW and its leadership have a strong, national reputation for honesty, competence, integrity, and militant, democratic, progressive trade unionism,” said Gary Allen, Vice President of the IAM. “Their record of success in winning industry standard contracts and organizing the unorganized speaks volumes. For 124 years the IAM has fought hard to raise standards of living and bring forward the issues of working families in North America. The IAM shares the NUHW’s commitment to free, fair and democratic membership control of the collective bargaining process. By standing together, all of us are stronger.”

    ###

    Thursday
    Jan262012

    Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Workers Win Contract with Raises and No Concessions

    Hospital Board voted unanimously to approve Tentative Agreement

    Salinas, California - Today, the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve a Tentative Agreement between hospital management and 750 caregivers who belong to the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). With that vote, NUHW members at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (SVMH) won a union contract after well over a year of bargaining.

    Though the employer had insisted throughout the duration of negotiations on over $16 million worth of concessions, including the elimination of workers’ defined benefit pension plan, an increase in health insurance costs, a wage freeze, a reduction in vacation days and sick leave, elimination of a ban on subcontracting, an extension of the probationary period for new hires and many more takeaways, workers succeeded in settling a contract with not a single concession and with wage increases from 3.25 to 18.25 percent over the term of the contract.

    SVMH caregivers achieved this remarkable success by staying united through a period of extraordinary turbulence and confrontation at the worksite and in the Salinas community at large.

    For the last two years, workers at SVMH have been engaged in a protracted and at times bruising public battle with the hospital’s Board of Directors to save their jobs and preserve their wages and benefits.

    In May of 2010, hundreds of SVMH workers voted to bolt the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and join NUHW in response to SEIU’s failure to provide adequate representation at the worksite and at the bargaining table.

    After being officially certified as NUHW members that October, SVMH caregivers mobilized to resist mass layoffs and benefit cuts. When the hospital’s Board of Directors hired outside management consultants to advise them on streamlining operations in preparation for a possible sale or merger of the public district hospital, NUHW members responded by pointing to the hospital’s payment of over $5 million to its outgoing CEO in an unusual severance agreement that became a national news story and that prompted a state audit of SVMH finances. 

    Last fall, workers engaged in a one-day strike and were locked out by management for three days.  

    Even while NUHW members resisted management’s proposed takeaways, more SVMH workers voted to join NUHW. In January of 2011, 67 formerly non-union technical workers petitioned to become NUHW members and joined their co-workers to fight for a fair contract.

    Earlier this week, SVMH workers voted by 388 to 1 to ratify the Tentative Agreement.

    NUHW members at SVMH include Respiratory Care Practitioners, Licensed Vocational Nurses, Certified Nursing Assistants, Dietary workers, Clerical employees, Laboratory Technicians, Diagnostic Imaging Technologists and other job classifications.

    Friday
    Jan202012

    More than 21,000 Kaiser Permanente Caregivers to Strike Statewide on January 31

    OAKLAND - This week, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) notified Kaiser Permanente of the union’s intent to engage in a 24-hour statewide strike on January 31st. 

    NUHW’s 4,000 members at Kaiser will be joined by 17,000 Registered Nurses with the California Nurses Association and 650 members of the Stationary Engineers Local 39 who will be striking in sympathy with NUHW in the largest walkout in the HMO’s history.

    The January 31st walkout will be the fourth time NUHW Kaiser workers have walked the picket line since they began bargaining in 2010. Last September, NUHW members were joined by CNA RNs who struck in sympathy, for a total of 21,000 Kaiser workers on strike. This month’s action will exceed that total by an additional 650 workers.

    Despite record profits over the last three years of more than $5.6 billion, Kaiser management is insisting on major reductions to workers’ healthcare coverage and retirement benefits. NUHW members are committed to holding the line against these cuts, which Kaiser intends to impose upon tens of thousands more employees represented by other unions as their contracts come up for renewal over the next several years.

    Even while demanding sacrifice from frontline caregivers in order to increase Kaiser’s profits, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, George Halvorson, took home almost $9 million in compensation in 2010, and numerous top managers at Kaiser enjoy lavish salaries, bonuses and perks, including as many as eight separate pension plans per executive.

    In addition to insisting on benefit cuts for workers, Kaiser administrators continue to refuse to address caregivers’ concerns about chronic short staffing and its negative impacts on patient care. Last November, NUHW members exposed gross deficiencies in Kaiser’s mental health services in a published report, available at http://www.nuhw.org/caredenied. The Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) is currently investigating the report’s claims.

    Despite its record profits, two weeks ago Kaiser imposed rate increases on 660,000 California policyholders still faltering under the burden of the Great Recession, a move that will garner the HMO an additional half billion dollars in revenue over the coming year. In a letter to the DMHC, NUHW and the Courage Campaign pointed to “significant deficiencies” in Kaiser’s rate review filing for the increases and requested an investigation into the economic justification for forcing this financial burden on California families when they can least afford it.

    “What it all boils down to is Kaiser top executives putting profits before patient care,” said Dr. Spencer Gross, a Psychologist at Kaiser Pleasanton. “Kaiser pays its CEO $9 million a year and has billions in surplus revenue, but that’s still not enough. They want even more sacrifice from caregivers, patients and California’s struggling families so that Kaiser executives can pay themselves like Wall Street bankers.”

    Thursday
    Jan192012

    Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Workers Ratify Tentative Agreement with Management

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    January 19, 2012 - Contact Leighton Woodhouse: (213) 948-3545

    Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Workers Ratify Tentative Agreement with Management

    Salinas, California - Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (SVMH) approved a Tentative Agreement reached on Monday between management and the union in a vote of 388 in favor to 1 against, or 99% percent in favor of ratification, with a 54% turnout.

    Tomorrow, the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System Board of Directors will vote on the Tentative Agreement, which comes with a recommendation to approve from the hospital’s bargaining team.

    The agreement caps a lengthy and acrimonious public battle between hospital employees and a majority of the Board’s members.

    “We’re relieved and elated that we’ve finally reached a successful conclusion to negotiations that were at times very difficult,” said George Ross, a Licensed Vocational Nurse at the hospital. “We knew that if we stuck together, we’d win a fair contract in the end.  We couldn’t be happier with what we’ve achieved.”

    Details of the contract settlement will be made available following the Board’s vote to approve the Tentative Agreement.

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