Hundreds of healthcare and support workers at Keck Hospital of USC took part in a one-day strike Wednesday in a continuing dispute over salaries and benefits.
Hospital officials said replacement workers were on duty to prevent any disruptions while members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers took part in the job action. According to the hospital, the union represents respiratory therapists, surgery technicians, unit secretaries and environmental services and facilities engineers.
Union members began picketing at 6 a.m. and were expected to continue until 6 p.m.
The union contends some workers are being paid “poverty wages and inadequate benefits,” saying some of its members qualify for food stamps and other forms of public assistance. It claims that one of every six union workers at the hospital earns less than $15 an hour, and some earn just $10.15 an hour.
“Administrators are giving themselves 30 percent raises and paying consultants thousands of dollars a day to tell them how to cut corners on patient care, while caregivers are getting nickel-and-dimed,” said Alex Corea, a respiratory therapist.
The union also contends workers are not offered the same retirement plan provided for other USC employees.
Hospital officials said the union has rejected its wage proposals and is demanding education benefits “not available to any other represented group within the Keck Health System.” Hospital officials stressed that the disagreements with the union are over “economic issues” and unrelated to patient care and safety.
“Our last, best and final proposal, which the hospital implemented last (month), provides for a minimum of 9 percent wage increases over the life of the contract, with larger increases for positions that are under market,” according to the hospital. “Moreover, Keck Hospital will continue to offer NUHW employees the option for a health-care plan with all premiums paid by the hospital. No other group within Keck Hospital has this option.”
—City News Service