Marin workers hold first strike since 2019

NewsApril 25, 2024

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While MarinHealth Medical Center has netted strong operating profits in recent years, its 107 medical technicians, who operate critical equipment like X-ray and MRI machines and prepare medications, have been falling behind, struggling to make ends meet in one of the nation’s most expensive counties.

After seven months without a contract, these workers hit the picket line for a one-day strike, where they were joined by allies from other unions at the hospital, while drivers passed by honking their horns.

“We’re here to fight for a fair contract,” Cierra Thlang, an X-ray technologist, who lives in Marin County told KTVU-2. “This hospital has been very profitable. We support this community. We live in this community, and we want to be able to continue to live in this community and get fair wages to be able to do that.”

In addition to KTVU, the strike was covered by KQED, KCBS Radio, and the Marin Independent Journal.

In contract negotiations, the public hospital district is demanding that the workers, who include MRI technologists, ultrasound technologists, pharmacy technicians, and cardiac sonographers, pay thousands of dollars more for their health insurance and accept wages that don’t keep up with the price of inflation. The district is also insisting on ending a free HMO option even though it has lost about one-third of its medical technicians over the past year.

“Our hospital has been successful because patients know they’ll get good care from experienced caregivers, and management is putting that at risk,” Thlang said prior to the strike. “We’re losing too many good healthcare workers, and we’re struggling to replace them.”

MarinHealth Medical Center (formerly Marin General Hospital) is a 327-bed public district hospital that also serves as a Level III trauma center. The hospital has posted $62.9 million in operating profits between 2021 and 2022. Yet, it pays its medical technicians significantly less than local competitors such as Kaiser Permanente and UCSF Health. Between March of 2023 and the beginning of this month, the number of medical technicians at MarinHealth represented by NUHW plummeted 52 percent from 163 workers to 107.

To restore staffing levels, workers are seeking raises that approach what registered nurses received from the hospital, which exceeded 5 percent per year. However, the hospital is insisting that the medical technicians accept annual raises of only 2.5 percent per year and accept steep increases in their healthcare costs — increases that exceed what the registered nurses must pay.

“In the last month, we’ve had three radiology technologists leave to work at higher paying hospitals with better healthcare options,” Thlang said. “All we want is fair treatment, so we can keep our caregivers and give our patients the best possible care.”

Bargaining is scheduled the second week of May. Workers are voting to authorize additional strike activities, if no settlement is reached.