Hospital Workers to Strike Wednesday at St. Joe’s

First Ward City Council member Leslie Castellano, NUHW representative and Saint Joseph's employee Alan McCloskey hold banners with others in front of St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka.

A protest last January by NUHW workers in front of St. Joseph’s Hospital. [Photo by Ryan Hutson]

Next Wednesday, workers at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka say they plan to strike from 6 a.m. til 6 p.m. in pursuit of better conditions for themselves and their patients.

St. Joseph’s Chief Executive Luskin-Hawk, M.D. sent a press release to several news organizations stating,”During the strike our hospitals will maintain daily operations and all hospital services and most outpatient services will remain open.”

The press release argues that the workers are asking for a “20% salary increase over a three year period.”

The workers say in their own press release that in retaliation for the strike, the hospital plans to lock out striking workers “for four days following the strike, leaving patients at St. Joseph Eureka and Redwood Memorial hospitals under the care of temporary workers until Monday, Nov. 25.”

Below is a press release from NUHW:

Hospital workers will strike Providence St. Joseph hospitals in Northern California next week, demanding contracts that ensure safe staffing and require the health care giant to invest its massive profits into its workforce and the communities it serves.

Caregivers, represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers will walk picket, lines from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20 at…St. Joseph Hospital, 2700 Dolbeer St. Eureka.

*Workers will also strike on Nov. 20 at two Providence St. Joseph hospitals in the Bay Area and picket at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

In retaliation for the one-day Unfair Labor Practice strike, Providence St. Joseph is locking out striking workers for four days following the strike, leaving patients at St. Joseph Eureka and Redwood Memorial hospitals under the care of temporary workers until Monday, Nov. 25.

“A four-day lockout is an extreme act of retaliation that ultimately harms patients,” said Vincent Guevara, a pharmacy technician at St. Joseph Eureka. “We have blown the whistle on Providence St. Joseph siphoning millions of dollars from our communities while understaffing our hospitals, and now Providence executives are trying to silence us.”

Providence St. Joseph Health, the nation’s third-largest nonprofit health system, was formed by the 2016 merger of Providence Health & Services with St. Joseph Health, which operated St. Joseph Eureka and Redwood Memorial hospitals in Humboldt County, Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa and Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and Petaluma Valley Hospital in Sonoma County.

From July 1, 2018 through June 30 of this year, those five Northern California hospitals have netted more than $197 million in operating profits, including $63 million from its two hospitals in Humboldt County. Yet caregivers report that their facilities are severely understaffed following several rounds of layoffs in recent years.

In a recent union survey, 92 percent of bedside caregivers at Providence St. Joseph hospitals throughout Northern California reported that their shifts are understaffed at least once a week. Nursing assistants reported having to care for as many as 20 patients at a time.

Instead of using its resources to fix the problem, Providence is refusing union proposals to increase staffing share staffing matrixes with workers. The company is also seeking to cut health benefits and reduce vacation time, while offering only a 1.25 percent raise to Humboldt County caregivers in each of the next two years.

“We need caregivers to provide quality patient care,” said Kellie Shaner, a monitor technician at St. Joseph Eureka. “And our hospitals won’t be able to recruit or retain quality workers if we can’t make enough to help support our families.”

In October, Attorney General Xavier Becerra blocked Providence St. Joseph from joining its Northern California hospitals those of Adventist Health, finding that the partnership was not in the public interest because it had “the potential to increase health costs, and potentially limits access and availability of health care services.” Caregivers in Humboldt County had urged Becerra to deny the partnership, noting that Providence over the last two years has fallen nearly $1 million short of its charity care obligation in Humboldt County required under its merger with St. Joseph Health.

“Providence trying to retaliate against caregivers for blowing the whistle on its greed, but we’re going to keep fighting until the company values its workers and patients as much as its profits,” NUHW President Sal Rosselli said.

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13 comments

  • Government Cheese

    Give everyone equal pay and patients “free” healthcare. Problem solved.

  • I support this action, against St Joseph’s.

    St Joe’s abuses of staff, and St Joe’s disregard for patient safety, state and federal law, and St Joe’s inability to operate profitably or in the public’s interest, all these things are legend. Healthcare can’t just be about money for Corporations!

    Now that Adventist Health has been turned aside from their plan to take over all health care in Napa, Mendo and Humboldt, St Joseph’s is left to find the future.

    Blow-back from the community will be necessary to insure the safe and sensible operation of St Joseph’s, and push-back from the rank and file, is long overdue.

    Strike now, and often, for decent pay, improved benefits, and improvements in overall employee rights, replacement of the staff in one of the worst HR departments in the industry, repressive, abusive and backwards treatment by administration, and for the relaxation of the death-grip from the Catholic Church.

    Good luck to St Joseph’s employees, it will be a long fight!

  • What about the patients?

  • It’s always used to tell what’s going on from such spinning of facts. What’s real… For example what if the “cut health care” was an increase in benefits but no longer paying all of it? The COLA is reasonable if there have been COLAs in prior years but not if there had been none. As far as I’ve heard, the lay offs were of staff that was no longer certified when government regulations changed and certified staff needed to be hired. One thing that makes no sense is the statement about the 4 days of lock out “harms patients,” while the union’s one day strike does not. Honestly no one not directly involved knows what’s really going on. Not all hospital employees say the same as the union. The silence from the hospital administration in the face of the union’s public statements, while normal during negotiations, leaves the union as the only voice heard.

    I’ve seen union-employer conflicts being personal vendettas. I don’t know if this is so but when it’s hospital care such tensions are worrisome. I don’t expect unions and employers to be in total sympathy in contract talks but using patient safety as a tool is really ugly.

    • The Hospital issued a press release. Just not to me. So I linked to the Lost Coast Outpost which has the full letter.

      • And Dr Luskin:

        Too little, too late. Smarten up, pay better, staff legally, be nicer…

        Get concerned about patient safety, people are watching…

        • The safety of the nurses is an issue as well. One of the nurses from St. Joeseph in Eureka was featured in a report from CBS News today.

          https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/nurses-face-an-epidemic-of-workplace-violence/ar-BBWOCjA?li=BBnbfcN

          • There is absolutely no excuse for assault on nursing staff, any more than there is an excuse for under-staffing! Illegal and dangerous working conditions exist in many hospitals that pay lip-service to workplace safety, and, low staffing significantly contributes to reduced levels of patient safety.
            Running low staff, to save money, is a serious threat to the safety of everyone inside the walls, and causes higher legal exposure for the organization! It’s just not worth the savings, and workers need to carefully document safety violations and run them through chain of command. If things don’t change or improve, it’s up to the employee to report to authorities, union and HR. Often, reporting causes the employee’s job to be changed or eliminated, which is just wrong, but hey, it’s St Joseph’s…

            Be careful at work, don’t expose yourself needlessly to a risky situation, and don’t risk your professional license to protect your employer!

        • So did you guys get anything after the strike

    • That is right, Mr Guest, healthcare, in this state, is abyssal, whether you are consuming it, or working within it.

      An excellent illustration of “how bad is it?”, is contained within the “lockout”, mentioned above.

      St Joseph’s, will always hit the employee in the wallet, by threatening his livelihood, and cutting off his cash-flow. My direct experience, working at Redwood Hospital, was a perfect case of them, trying to control me, by refusing to give benefited, adequately compensated, and regularly scheduled employment, in amounts that would allow me to pay my bills and feel secure.

      Guess what? I found another job, and damn quick! Which holds with my basic philosophy, that if you are not getting what you need in one place, you need to move on to a place that serves your requirements!

      St Joseph’s, and Dignity Health, are two of the companies that have the worst employee environment, the most repressive management, lowest compensation, the poorest quality HR staff and tactics, and, quantitatively, are companies that I will not work for, or consume the services which they provide! Adventist Health is in a category by itself, not only for awful management, but for being unbelievably dishonest, backhanded, and repressive. All three of these companies openly abuse staff, short staff, have awful scheduling, high turnover, and, they all tend to use travelers whenever they can get away with it, since departmental budgets and temporary staff budgets come from separate cost centers, and since travelers are cheaper, than benefited employees.

      Meanwhile, these SJ employees in Eureka, are facing nasty backlash, lockouts, and possibly other, possibly illegal, actions from a company with a real bad reputation… My advice runs to: extended strikes, (which require costly “replacement” workers) picketing, and the continued generation of bad press for St Joseph’s. I don’t think St Joseph’s will give up easily, and the future may be dark, for these strikers…

      The mere existence of a union indicates old-school, intractable, and poor quality employment experience, and, the existence of bad management. I don’t like certain companies, but I don’t like unions, the union mentality, or the negotiation processes required to do business this way.

      You get to pick and choose, but some people want to be wherever they are… I always say, there is no bad experience, but there are poor quality experiences! Working at St Joseph’s falls well within the range of poor quality employment…

      Good luck to all healthcare workers, and, if you can, always negotiate up front! Remember, salaries are going up, benefits are getting better, and, there is life outside Humboldt! Hang in there!

  • I support the strike & the strikers

  • It is about time that St. Joe’s steps up to the plate and gives the workers a pay raise. All the hospitals involved in the St. Joe’s system made approximately $94 million in profits last year. The people who run the hospitals are all greedy. The game is about money, not workers. It is now time for a big change! And locking the striker’s out for four days because they are trying to make things better for themselves and the patients is just damn stupid. Patient care for those days will be nothing short very poor!

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