Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Caregivers On Strike Tomorrow

NewsJune 22, 2011

24-hour walkout begins at 6am on Tuesday

When: Tuesday, June 21st at 6am

Where: Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, 450 East Romie Lane, Salinas, CA 93901

What: Caregivers on strike for a fair contract 

Salinas, California – About 850 caregivers at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (SVMH) will walk off the job for 24 hours beginning tomorrow at 6am to protest the hospital’s refusal to bargain in good faith and management’s insistence on cutting dozens of direct care positions while paying $12 million to Chicago-based management consultants with a history of scandal.

SVMH management and members of the Salinas Valley Healthcare System Board of Directors have been advocating layoffs and reductions to workers’ retirement and health benefits for over a year. Even while pushing to drastically cut the number of direct care providers at the hospital, SVMH has paid over $12 million to Wellspring Partners, a consulting firm run by individuals tied to the 2001 Enron scandal. Wellspring’s 2004 takeover of St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City, under the firm’s previous name of Speltz and Weis, ended in bankruptcy for the medical center and a lawsuit by the hospital’s creditors accusing the consultants of expensing opera tickets, groceries, laundry bills, housing fees and a university club membership to the hospital.

In April, The Los Angeles Times revealed that SVMH administrators and directors paid $4 million to the former CEO, who was already one of the highest-paid public employees in the state, in payouts from multiple supplemental executive pension plans. In 2008, three years before his retirement, SVMH paid the same CEO another $1 million as part of a highly unusual severance agreement, the L.A. Times reported in May. The California state legislature responded to the initial news of SVMH’s fiscal mismanagement by authorizing an audit of the hospital’s finances.

“Management’s continued insistence on reducing the number of caregivers at the bedside and cutting our benefits in order to pay millions of dollars to executives and to scandal-plagued, out-of-state consultants isn’t just a problem for workers at the hospital.  It’s a problem for every Salinas resident who might someday be a patient here, or who might have a loved one who’s treated at Salinas Valley Memorial,” said George Ross, a Licensed Vocational Nurse at SVMH. “We told management we were ready to walk the picket line if they refused to bargain in good faith, and that’s exactly what’s going to happen tomorrow.”