Frontline workers confront Board of Directors at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital

NewsOctober 7, 2021

Fifty NUHW members showed up September 30 at a Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Board of Directors meeting to demand the hospital provide a fair wage increase and rescind its plan to double the cost of health insurance for these essential workers.

You say we’re family, treat us like family,” chief steward Esther Fierros–Nunez told the board. 

“We’re all here and we’ve been through the COVID-19 pandemic, but you guys are not appreciating that,” continued Fierros–Nunez, who works in patient financial services. “We don’t want to be heroes, we just want to be appreciated for all the work we do for the hospital.”

Fierros–Nunez was one of 11 Salinas Valley workers who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting while the rest cheered and applauded and held signs.

“We were talking from our hearts,” said Fierros–Nunez. “People were really willing to give their thoughts.”

Fierros–Nunez said her coworkers are appalled that management at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital is dragging its feet in bargaining, failing to provide a fair wage increase that would keep pace with the rising cost of living on the Central Coast, and refusing to back down from its plan to double their health insurance costs. The hospital hangs banners calling its workers heroes for working through the COVID-19 pandemic, but is seeking to dramatically increase their health care costs while they continue putting their own health at risk as frontline healthcare workers.

“We don’t know if we’re going to go home and take this virus with us,” said Francisca Sanchez, a registration clerk who has worked at Salinas Valley Memorial for 35 years. “We’re committed to providing quality, consistent patient care for our community, but shouldn’t our hospital be committed to providing us health care that we can afford?” 

Workers overwhelmingly voted to authorize an informational picket if there isn’t meaningful progress at the bargaining table. 

“People are ready to be out there,” Sanchez said. 

The facility brought in $84 million in profit in 2019 and its 15 percent profit margin is twice the average rate for California hospitals. And CEO Pete Delgado is one of just 10 California public employees who makes $1 million or more per year. 

Fierros–Nunez said she doesn’t understand why the facility is not willing to bargain in good faith, given the record profits it’s enjoyed in recent years. Instead, management at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital is adding another worry for workers already dealing with the high stress of trying to save lives and care for patients. 

“We’re supposed to be taking care of patients and we’re spinning our wheels on contract proposals that are insignificant compared to the revenue that we get,” she said.

Fierros-Nunez and Sanchez demand that the hospital do more to recognize employees’ value and effort.  

“Our board of directors sometimes forgets that this is a district hospital and when CEO Pete Delgado talks about looking out for the community and patients, he should remember we are the community, we are the ones who live here, we contribute to the hospital with our taxes,” Fierros-Nunez said. “I want to remind him that we’re all part of the community.”