Labor Notes: California Strike Highlights Hospitals’ Skewed Priorities

NewsJune 24, 2011

Labor Notes:

By Mark Brenner

Hundreds of workers at a central California hospital return to work today, after a two-day lockout that provoked a complaint from the state labor board.

Workers at the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, two hours south of San Francisco, were locked out after taking to picket lines on Tuesday.

The daylong strike—the first ever in the hospital’s 58-year history—was called by members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) after stalled negotiations with hospital management.

The union, which represents techs, professionals, and service workers in the hospital, is fighting plans to cut more than 100 direct-care positions and trim pension and health care benefits for new hires.

The labor board’s complaint says the Salinas lockout was illegal retaliation for striking. A decision is expected within a month—and could net workers back pay for the days they were locked out. 

It’s the third short strike this year by NUHW, which was founded in 2009 after SEIU placed its third-largest local, the dissident United Healthcare Workers-West, into trusteeship, prompting members and leaders to establish the breakaway union.

The struggles are a critical part of the union’s development, as NUHW members work against intense opposition from employers and their former union to secure first contracts for its 10,000 members statewide.

Read the full article at Labor Notes.