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    Thursday
    Jan052012

    Workers at Michigan Hospital Vote to Leave SEIU and Join NUHW

    Muskegon, Michigan - Technical workers at the Hackley campus of Mercy Health Partners hospital in Muskegon, Michigan voted yesterday to leave the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) by a vote of 65 to 9, with two votes for “no union.”

    Hackley caregivers are the second group of Michigan workers to bolt SEIU for NUHW since last fall. Last September, workers at Luther Manor Nursing Home in Saginaw chose NUHW over SEIU by a margin of more than 2-to-1.

    “We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” said Kim Vossekuil, a Surgical Technologist at Hackley. “SEIU is too corrupt and indifferent to its members for us to remain with them for a single day longer. We’ve gone months at a time without ever seeing our SEIU representative, and SEIU staff refused to do anything when management ran roughshod over our contract. We cast our ballots for NUHW because we want a union that workers control and that’s accountable to us.”

    SEIU has had a troubled recent history in Michigan, marked by repeated allegations of corruption. The former president of SEIU Healthcare Michigan, Rickman Jackson, was forced from office in 2008 over his receipt of thousands of dollars in improper rent payments from SEIU’s Los Angeles homecare union, where he was formerly employed. Jackson’s replacement, Marge Faville, is paid over $160,000 annually and has her niece, daughter and son on the union’s payroll. The union spent $17,600 in member dues money in 2010 for use of a corporate apartment in Detroit by Faville and her family members, even though the local union is currently $1.7 million in debt.

    Yesterday’s election covered approximately 100 technical employees, including Radiology Technologists, Respiratory Therapists, Surgical Technologists, Ultrasound Technologists and Vascular Technologists.

    ###
    Thursday
    Dec222011

    Kaiser Skirting State Regulations in January Rate Hike on 660,000 Californians

    Emeryville, California - Today, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) and the Courage Campaign requested that the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) “exercise its full statutory authority” to investigate insurance rate hikes that Kaiser Permanente plans to impose on 660,000 Californians on January 1, 2012, due to Kaiser’s failure to provide data required by regulators for their rate review process.

    Today, in a letter submitted to DMHC Director Brent Barnhart, the two organizations pointed to “significant deficiencies” in Kaiser’s October rate review filings, and its failure to provide information on six of fourteen factors required by DMHC in its review process. On January 1, Kaiser seeks to boost rates for individual and small group plan subscribers by an average 9.0% and 8.2%, respectively. The rate increases would yield an additional half-billion dollars in revenues for Kaiser.

    In its filings to DMHC, Kaiser provided incomplete data on the company’s rate of return, financial surpluses and executive compensation, among other factors that would militate against an economic justification for the increases. The ostensibly not-for-profit HMO has made more than $5.6 billion in profits since the beginning of 2009, and Kaiser’s CEO, George Halvorson, received nearly $9 million in compensation in 2010.

    This is the second time in less than a year that Kaiser has attempted to push through a rate hike without submitting crucial data required by the state. This summer, Kaiser imposed a rate increase on 300,000 rate payers in California after submitting a rate review filing with many of the same missing data as in its October filing.

    Then, as now, NUHW and the Courage Campaign urged DMHC to investigate the economic justification for Kaiser’s rate hike, based on its inadequate rate review filing. In September, after discussions with DMHC regulators and at their urging, Kaiser retroactively rolled back its increase by 1.2 percentage points, yielding an estimate $30 million in savings for California consumers. A recently obtained letter describes DMHC’s “deep disappointment” with Kaiser’s July rate hikes in the midst of California’s ongoing recession as well as Kaiser’s failure to justify hikes on consumers.

    “Despite DMHC’s clear rebuke of Kaiser’s failure to justify its rate increase from earlier this year, Kaiser administrators have elected to do the same thing once more,” said Rick Jacobs, Founder and Chair of the Courage Campaign. “This is becoming par for the course with Kaiser: rip off policyholders when they’re hurting the most, ignore state regulations, and funnel even more patient care dollars into obscene executive salaries. Governor Brown and DMHC need to let Kaiser know they’ve got Californians’ interests at heart, and bring some accountability to an HMO that’s increasingly out of control.”

    “It’s unconscionable for Kaiser to boost its massive profits and exorbitant executive compensation on the backs of California’s small businesses and non-profits, which are struggling to stay afloat, and at the expense of individual consumers still staggering under the impact of the Great Recession,” said Sal Rosselli, President of NUHW. “Kaiser’s finances make clear these rate hikes are excessive, and its repeated failures to meet the state’s reporting requirements show its complete contempt for California’s current rate oversight process.”
    Wednesday
    Dec142011

    Providence Tarzana Medical Center Workers Reach Contract Settlement with Management

    LOS ANGELES - Over 550 employees of Providence-owned Tarzana Medical Center in the San Fernando Valley reached a tentative agreement with management yesterday for a union contract that includes annual two percent across-the-board wage increases for all full time and part time workers for three years, and that maintains a ban on subcontracting at the hospital.

    The agreement also improves workers’ retirement benefits and increases their protections in the event of a sale of the hospital.

    “By showing Providence  we were willing to  stand up for ourselves, we won raises for  every full time and part time worker and kept our ban on subcontracting in  place,” said Julia Sidrow-Thompson, a Monitor Technician at Tarzana.  “That’s exactly why we joined NUHW — to belong to a union willing to fight and win.”
    Tuesday
    Dec132011

    Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital Caregivers Hold Candlelight Vigil for Fair Contract Tonight

    What: Candlelight vigil for a fair contract at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital

    When: Tuesday, December 13th at 5:30pm

    Where: Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, 1165 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa, 95405 (follow this link to a map of the location: http://g.co/maps/p35x3 )

    Visuals: Hospital employees and community allies standing in front of hospital with lit candles, somber and dignified 

    SANTA ROSA - Along with community supporters and faith leaders, caregivers at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital (SRMH) will hold a candlelight vigil tonight to urge management to bargain in good faith toward a fair contract that safeguards patient care.

    Over 650 members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) have been bargaining since May over job security, fair wages and safe staffing levels at the hospital.  Even though the hospital reported over $26 million in profits in the last fiscal year and is a regional Level II trauma center, wages at Memorial are among the lowest for major hospitals in the county.

    NUHW members at SRMH include Licensed Vocational Nurses, Dietary workers, Nursing Assistants, Phlebotomists, Radiology Technologists, Respiratory Care Practitioners, Housekeepers and other job classifications.

    ###
    Monday
    Nov142011

    New Report Describes Gross Deficiencies in Kaiser Permanente Mental Health Services

    Survey and interviews uncover systemic failures to provide timely and appropriate care

    OAKLAND - A comprehensive new report published by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) describes gross and systemic deficiencies in mental health services at Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics throughout California, including willful violations of state laws and regulations, and routine disregard of clinicians’ treatment recommendations by administrators preoccupied with cost savings.

    The report, based on a survey of over 300 Kaiser mental health professionals practicing at 57 Kaiser facilities in Northern and Southern California, along with dozens of open-ended interviews with clinicians and patients, includes these findings:

    • Ninety percent (90%) of surveyed clinicians report that there is insufficient staffing at their clinic to provide patients with timely return visits.
    • Patients are frequently forced to wait four weeks or longer for return appointments, even though California state regulations require that they be seen within ten business days. These include patients suffering from major depression, suicidal ideation, and other serious conditions.
    • Kaiser routinely compels clinicians to “speed up” initial patient evaluations, reducing their durations to as little as half of recommended clinical standards, and then miscodes these sessions “in a manner that may result in fraudulent claims to Medicare and other governmental and private purchasers.”
    • Kaiser often funnels patients into group therapy even when their diagnoses call for individual therapy.
    • Kaiser falsifies patient scheduling records to conceal appointment delays from state regulators, through practices such as “shadow” paper records, deliberate miscoding of appointment requests, and deliberately canceling and rescheduling patients’ appointments “while falsely attributing the cancellation to the patient.”

    Clinicians interviewed for the report describe an unmistakable pattern of knowing failures and deceptive practices by Kaiser administrators that routinely compromise the health and safety of thousands of patients suffering from emotional pain and distress in order to save the company money. Even though Kaiser has generated over $5.6 billion in profits since the beginning of 2009 and pays its Chief Executive Officer close to $8 million a year, Kaiser management has refused to agree to guarantee its caregivers sufficient staffing to safeguard quality patient care. Through three strikes and nearly twenty months of bargaining, Kaiser caregivers throughout the state have attempted to address these patient care issues with management and have been met with intransigence.

    After reviewing the report, the California Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers wrote in a statement, “It appears that there are very serious and clear violations of California law relating to timely access to care and inadequate health care practices at Kaiser that appear to fall short of recommended clinical standards….state and federal authorities should investigate this matter to ensure that mental health clients at Kaiser are receiving timely and appropriate treatment.”

    Likewise, a letter from the California Psychological Association affirmed that the organization “supports calls for objective review of the allegations by both federal and state regulators who have the responsibility for enforcing the mental health parity laws and ensuring that the lawful community standard of care is being fully observed.”

    View on-camera interviews with patients and clinicians describing Kaiser’s substandard mental health services:

    Interview with patient, Bill Hawkins: http://kaiserunited.org/2011/11/bill-hawkins-interview/

    Interview with son of patient, Timm Sinclair: http://kaiserunited.org/2011/11/timm-sinclair-interview/

    Interview with Psychiatric Social Worker Emily Ryan and Therapist Jim Clifford: http://kaiserunited.org/2011/09/kaiser-mental-health-workers-speak-out/

    Read the full report here: bit.ly/CareDenied

    See NUHW’s resource page for press and the public: http://www.nuhw.org/caredenied

    Friday
    Oct142011

    Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital and the National Union of Healthcare Workers Agree to Assemblymember Luis Alejo and State Mediator's Request for 30-Day Cooling Off Period

    NUHW strike scheduled for October 18th withdrawn

    Salinas, California - SVMH and NUHW today (October 13, 2011) agreed to a request from the offices of Assemblymember Luis Alejo and the state mediator for a 30-day cooling off period in an effort to put in place a process to reach a contract. The parties also agreed to bargaining dates of October 26, November 7, and November 15. 

    As an expression of good faith, NUHW agreed to withdraw its strike notice, while SVMH agreed to pay those employees who were scheduled to work on June 22 and 23 and were denied reinstatement on those dates, following the union’s one-day strike on June 21. 

    Both NUHW and SVMH express their appreciation to Assemblymember Alejo and the state mediator for their constructive involvement in these negotiations.

    Tuesday
    Oct112011

    Close to 700 USC University Hospital Workers On Strike Tomorrow for 24 Hours

    What: 24-hour strike by close to 700 caregivers at Keck Medical Center of USC (formerly USC University Hospital)

    When: Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 12th, beginning at 6am. Picket lines from 6am - 6pm. Strike for 24 hours.

    Where: USC University Hospital, 1500 San Pablo St., Los Angeles (Follow this link to a map of the location: http://g.co/maps/7qvgn)

    Visuals: Hundreds of caregivers marching with picket signs, many wearing scrubs or lab coats.

     

    LOS ANGELES - Close to 700 employees of Keck Medical Center of USC (formerly USC University Hospital) will strike for 24 hours tomorrow, Wednesday, October 12th, beginning at 6am.

    USC caregivers have been bargaining with the hospital since August 2010. Workers are asking that management agree to provide frontline caregivers with a contractually enforceable means of addressing short-staffing problems that compromise patient care. To date, their proposal to protect patients has been rebuffed by hospital administrators.

    Even though the university holds a $2.9 billion endowment and the hospital generated $3 million in profits in the last fiscal quarter alone, management has proposed implementing a one-year wage freeze on hospital workers. The hospital further insists on continuing to deny caregivers the same family tuition assistance benefit and retirement plan that they recently agreed to for the hospital’s Registered Nurses, who are members of the California Nurses Association, and that is available to almost every other university employee.

    The federal government has issued complaints against Keck Medical Center management for several unfair labor practices, and has scheduled a hearing on them for October 24th.

    NUHW members at USC include Respiratory Care Practitioners, Radiology Technologists, Surgical Technicians, Housekeepers and other job classifications.

    ###

    Monday
    Oct102011

    SVMH Management Tries to Force Illegal Gag Order on Caregivers

    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.

    Saturday
    Oct082011

    Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Workers to Engage in 24-hour Strike on October 18

    Salinas, California - Yesterday, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) issued official notice to Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (SVMH) management of the union’s plan to engage in a 24-hour strike by over 650 SVMH caregivers should management continue to refuse to bargain in good faith toward a fair contract that safeguards quality patient care and that leaves workers’ benefits intact. The walkout will be the second one-day strike by SVMH workers this year.

    SVMH has spent tens of millions of dollars on out-of-state consultants and executive salaries and pensions while demanding over $1 million in concessions from caregivers at the expense of quality patient care. Hospital administrators and directors have rejected SVMH caregivers’ proposals to safeguard patient care by improving staffing ratios for nursing staff, even after the Department of Health Services cited the hospital for deficiencies in care caused by staff cutbacks.

    Members of the hospital’s Board of Directors have been plagued by scandal and mounting evidence of corruption for the better part of a year.

    In July, The Salinas Californian revealed that a majority of the hospital’s Board of Directors authorized the hiring of the McKinsey Group, a controversial management consulting firm linked to the Enron fiasco, to compile a report laying out options for privatizing the district hospital. The firm was retained at a cost of nearly $1 million through a third party, the district’s outside law firm, in order to shield the document’s contents from the public under attorney-client privilege.

    Under California law, the board members’ private discussions of plans to sell the hospital were illegal. Section 32106 of The California Healthcare District Law delineates what subjects may be discussed in closed session, and explicitly prohibits closed door discussion of “(t)he sale, conversion, contract for management, or leasing of any district health care facility.”

    Nine local labor and community leaders asked State Attorney General Kamala Harris and Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo to launch investigations into the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare District Board’s illegal conduct.

    At a public Board meeting on September 15, the Board’s own newly-hired attorneys confirmed that the Board’s regular practice of holding closed-door discussions to discuss a potential merger or sale of the hospital is in violation of the law, as is its continuing refusal to disclose privatization plans drawn up in secret by a majority of Board members and their consultants.

    Also in September, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) issued a complaint against the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System for engaging in unfair labor practices that interfered with SVMH employees’ rights and that violated sections of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act.

    These recent controversies followed a major scandal that exploded in May, when the Los Angeles Times reported on the “extreme” public pension benefits of former SVMH CEO Sam Downing, whose pension payouts added up to nearly $4 million on top of his $150,000 annual disbursement. Downing’s $790,000 salary in 2009 made him the third highest-paid public employee in the state that year, according to an earlier Times story. Editorial boards at the Times, the Monterey County Herald and The Salinas Californian uniformly condemned the outsized payouts.

    State Assemblymember Luis Alejo requested a state financial audit of Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital in order to investigate fiscal mismanagement by SVMH’s Board of Directors and the diversion of hospital funds by Board members “to organizations and causes of which they are personally associated.” While governing SVMH,  Board Member Harry Wardwell, who simultaneously runs the bank that oversees SVMH’s payroll and that holds over $15 million of the hospital’s funds as savings deposits, “may have used his positions to profit at public expense,” a letter from Alejo stated. Alejo’s letter further explained that “SVMH has made large donations to entities directly tied to Board members,” including the California International Air Show, which was co-founded by Board President Jim Gattis and for which Wardwell serves as Executive Director.

    “We’re just asking to be treated fairly as frontline caregivers, and to be provided with the staff we need to keep our patients safe,” said George Ross, a Licensed Vocational Nurse. “But it seems as if the majority of the Board is more interested in turning the hospital into a cash cow to enrich themselves personally. The secret privatization schemes, the diversion of patient care dollars to Board members’ organizations and businesses, the millions in taxpayer dollars wasted on out-of-state consultants with histories of scandal — it all needs to end. This hospital should belong to the community, not to these self-interested Board members and their Wall Street friends.”

    Tuesday
    Oct042011

    Facing Government Scrutiny, Kaiser Backs Off Rate Increases

    Kaiser rolled back $30 million in increases after NUHW and the Courage Campaign requested DMHC examination of rate hike

    Emeryville, California - Kaiser Permanente recently announced that it will roll back $30 million in premium increases it imposed this summer on hundreds of thousands of Californians, in order to avoid further examination of its rates by the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC).

    The $30 million rate rollback will affect more than 300,000 Californians employed by small businesses and nonprofit organizations whose monthly rates were boosted by an average 10.7% on July 1, 2011. Kaiser has reduced rates for these consumers by 1.2% across the board going forward, and will refund that portion of the premiums it has collected since July.

    In June, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) and the Courage Campaign submitted formal letters of complaint to the Governor’s office regarding Kaiser’s plans to boost these consumers’ monthly premiums by an average 10.7 percent. The complaint letters requested an examination of Kaiser’s rate hike by the DMHC and explained that Kaiser’s rate review filings to the DMHC “demonstrate significant data deficiencies, and the evidence they do contain makes it hard for anyone to conclude that the rate hikes are justified.”  The letters cited Kaiser’s failure to disclose information about its massive profits ($5.7 billion since the beginning of 2009) and executive compensation practices as well as its failure to provide historical data on prior rate hikes.  Furthermore, the letters noted that Kaiser sought rate hikes that were more than triple the rate of medical cost inflation.

    Kaiser’s decision to roll back its rate increases, described in this sample letter to customers, follows a review of the HMO’s rate hikes by DMHC conducted as requested in the letter from NUHW and the Courage Campaign. Kaiser’s letter states that “Kaiser Permanente has undergone a highly complex rate filing and review with the Department of Managed Health Care. As a result, we’ve agreed to this small rate reduction.”

    Kaiser’s action is described in a recent press release issued by KaiserQuotes.com, which reports “the information that they [Kaiser] provided to the DMHC presented challenges and delays,” as Kaiser does not report financial data “broken down by specific department classifications” as required of other insurers.

    Kaiser’s tacit recognition that its rate hike was too high points to a need for further scrutiny by purchasers of the giant HMO’s rate increases on other groups. Two weeks ago, a teachers union that represents tens of thousands of classroom instructors sent a letter to Kaiser taking it to task for seeking double-digit rate increases on cash-strapped school districts facing massive budget deficits. The letter, dated September 22, 2011, states in part:

    “Despite this enormous profitability, Kaiser currently seeks a 10% hike in the monthly premiums for health care from Los Angeles Unified School District employees. As you can imagine, this proposed premium hike – which would drain an additional $40 million a year – could not come at a worse time. In the midst of the Great Recession, our city’s school district has laid off 1,400 teachers and other staff and has forced our children to endure ballooning class sizes that deprive them of the education they deserve. In fact, last month Kaiser reported that it earned $1.6 billion in profits during the first six months of 2011 – a 45% increase compared to the same period in 2010. In this context, it’s difficult to understand how Kaiser, which we understand is a nonprofit, can rationalize the boosting of its rates on consumers…”

    While Kaiser’s rate rollback is an important victory for California consumers and will save $30 million for small businesses and nonprofit organizations, NUHW and the Courage Campaign seek further investigation of Kaiser’s rate hikes, in addition to Kaiser’s compliance with DMHC reporting requirements.

    “Last week’s rate rollback is just the first step we must take to bring Kaiser in line,” said Rick Jacobs, chair and founder of the Courage Campaign, a 700,000 member grassroots, progressive, online organization based in California. “Even after returning $30 million to consumers, Kaiser’s will still reap nearly $350 million in profits from its remaining rate hikes, making it the most profitable HMO in California—and it pays no taxes. And with those profits and tax savings, they buy a vast lobbying machine to kill rate regulation, just as they did with AB 52.  Californians are struggling with the worst economy since the Great Depression, and Kaiser is acting like the most rapacious hedge fund manager, making money as its members struggle to make ends meet.”

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