Providence Tarzana workers picket against layoffs of SEIU-represented housekeepers

February 2nd, 2017

More than 75 Providence Tarzana Medical Center workers picketed the hospital January 16 demanding that management bring back more than two dozen SEIU-represented housekeepers with a combined 245 years of service.

For years, the hospital had contracted out housekeeping work to outsourcing firms that paid poverty wages. Providence Tarzana finally brought these jobs in-house, but refused to bring aboard at least 25 of its 57 housekeepers, claiming they are somehow no longer qualified to do their jobs. Some worked for the hospital for more than a decade. With SEIU missing in action, NUHW members at Providence Tarzana have taken up the fight on behalf of their co-workers.

The Catholic hospital refused to say why these workers — many of whom had made no secret they planned to join NUHW — weren’t brought aboard. The hospital refused multiple request by workers and faith-based organizations to explain its rationale. 

But the Los Angeles Daily News reported unnamed hospital officials saying that the housekeepers will have some new responsibilities, mainly the “ability to effectively interact with patients and their families to ease their concerns.”

That sounds like the hospital is imposing an English proficiency test on housekeepers. Not only is that unfair, we think it’s illegal.

NUHW filed an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board contending the hospital “has applied a verbal English test not related to the job” for its housekeepers.

Moreover, the English requirement doesn’t explain why these longtime workers were let go. Most of them speak proficient English. 

“They only said that we have to speak English, but a lot of us speak good English,” said Celia Ortiz, who had worked at the hospital for 16 years. “I still hope to have my job back. I feel like it’s my life in there.”

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Celia Ortiz, left, at the picket.

The real reason is that the hospital wants to keep its new housekeeping unit union-free. 

“It’s unthinkable that a hospital whose stated mission is community service would turn its back on workers who collectively have served it for a combined 245 years,” NUHW President Sal Rosselli said. “Making these workers reapply for their jobs was unfair. Refusing to hire them is unconscionable and a blatant attempt at union busting. Our 575 members at Providence Tarzana always stand up for their coworkers, and we are intent on making the hospital live up to its values.”

In December, caregivers held a vigil for the housekeepers that was covered by Spanish language outlets. Following the January 16 picket, they launched the above video on Facebook, where it has been viewed more than 65,000 times in the cities served by the hospital.