After five months of bargaining, NUHW members picket Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center

NewsDecember 19, 2022

NUHW members picketed Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center Dec. 7 to demand that 227-bed hospital in LA’s San Fernando Valley take action to address severe understaffing that is putting patients at risk.

“We’re never safely staffed because every month more people leave for jobs that provide better pay and less stress,” Koudjo Equida, a phlebotomist told the LA Daily News. “We’re fed up with unequal treatment from our employer that results in unequal care for our patients.” The picket was also covered by KTLA-5.

While Providence and Cedars-Sinai are building a new $540 million hospital in Tarzana, they are continuing to insist on paying caregivers far below market wages, resulting in rapid turnover. Of the nearly 600 workers who authorized the picket — including licensed vocational nurses, nursing assistants, surgical and imaging technicians, housekeepers and respiratory therapists — 28 percent have been at the hospital for less than one year.

Tarzana’s recruitment and retention crisis is being driven by low wages. On average, the hospital pays 21 percent less for key caregiver positions than nine nearby union hospitals, according tofigures collected by NUHW.

Jonathan Mexicanos, a respiratory therapist, said that Los Robles Regional Medical Center paid him 25 percent more than what he receives at Tarzana. “They value you for your work there, and they show it through the compensation,” he told the Daily News. “I have saved lives — it’s our job to do so. But to not value the work you do … is demoralizing.”

After five months at the bargaining table, the hospital is still proposing wage increases that would be far below both the rate of inflation and what Providence has agreed to pay workers at several of its other hospitals.

“All we’re asking is a comparable wage to other hospitals, said Steve Maclennan, an ultrasound tech. “You have $500 million to build a new hospital, but you can’t cough up a few bucks to take care of your people. That’s hypocritical.”

In an NUHW survey, 60 percent of workers responded that they are understaffed during their shifts at least once a week. Fifty-eight percent responded that they are still physically and/or emotionally impacted daily by the stress and disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the concerns of workers, Tarzana has so far refused in contract negotiations to provide free COVID-19 testing despite 232 workplace exposures so far this year.

The picket comes on the heels of actions by other workers at Tarzana. Last month registered nurses and other caregivers at the hospital held a separate picket to also protest severe understaffing at the hospital.