Providence St. Joseph workers launch united campaign

January 28th, 2019

Dozens of NUHW members from Providence St. Joseph hospitals across California – along with allies from several nursing unions – launched a coordinated campaign on January 19 to launch to win better contracts and build worker power inside the nation’s third largest hospital system.

NUHW members at six Providence St. Joseph hospitals from LA County to Eureka met in Santa Rosa to discuss how they face many of the same challenges. Their hospitals are chronically understaffed, and they are dealing with an organization that is dead set on maximizing profits despite its non-profit status.

“We understand now we work for an organization with misplaced priorities, and we need to work together to make things better for ourselves and our patients,” said Steven Batson, an anesthesia tech at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

After the 2016 merger of Providence Health & Services and St. Joseph Health, the newly minted Providence St. Joseph Health CEO Rod Hochman more than doubled his salary, from $4.1 million in 2016 to $10.5 million in 2017. Yet, following the merger, the company announced hundreds of layoffs across its system.

In California last year, the hospital announced 55 layoffs at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, which posted a $70 million operating profit in 2017, and 25 layoffs in Humboldt County, where its two hospitals reported a combined $52 million profit the same year. NUHW members were among those laid off at the three hospitals.

The layoffs came despite severe understaffing. Ninety-two percent of responding bedside-care staff including nurses and nursing assistants reported that their shift is understaffed at least one day a week, according to a recent survey of NUHW members at Providence hospitals. Nursing assistants reported routinely having to care for 20 patients at a time, leaving patients waiting to be fed, bathed, and helped to the bathroom.

With contracts expiring this year at several Providence hospitals, NUHW members across the system – and their allies – are coordinating efforts to win better contracts that will bolster staffing and improve patient care.

To build our power within the system, workers are also committed to helping organize numerous Providence St. Joseph hospitals in Southern California that do not have unions.

At the January 19 meeting, member leaders discussed the principles that will guide the campaign and their goals for winning good contracts and building worker power within the Providence St. Joseph system. Leaders from the California Nurses Association, Petaluma Nurse Partnership of Petaluma Valley Hospital and Staff Nurses’ Association of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital also attended the meeting.

“It was heartening to see so many colleagues from across California facing the same issues that we face in Tarzana and determined to do something about it,” said Bryan Carrillo, a certified nursing assistant. “I left feeling more confident than ever that together we can build a powerful movement that will hold Providence St. Joseph accountable to its workers and patients.”