San Francisco Nursing Center caregivers strike over cuts to healthcare coverage

July 21st, 2015

SFNC healthcare workers protest new owner’s unethical labor practices

Community leaders will join fifty workers on picket line at Mission District’s long-term care facility on Wednesday, July 22

SAN FRANCISCO — Fifty NUHW-represented caregivers at San Francisco Nursing Center will strike for one day, Wednesday, July 22, and picket in front of the facility at 5767 Mission Street from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Among the speakers at the workers’ noontime rally will be: San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi; District 11 Supervisor John Avalos; San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson; Rafael Mandelman, president of City College Board of Trustees; a representative from District 9 Supervisor David Campos’ office; and members of the Filipino Community Center.  

San Diego-based Providence Group, Inc., bought the long-term care facility in May and, with little notice, unilaterally scrapped SFNC employees’ Kaiser Permanente healthcare plan and forced them into a markedly inferior plan that boosts their out-of-pocket costs and saddles them with sky-high deductibles. 

With the stroke of a pen, CEO Jason Murray and his business partners shifted 60 percent or more of the company’s healthcare costs to their workers and thereby transferred at least $20,000 a month — $240,000 a year — to their bottom line, according to , according to calculations by NUHW. 

It’s a windfall that surely justifies Murray’s decision to hire union-busting Los Angeles attorney Josh Sable, who also handles “labor relations” for Brius Healthcare Services, California’s largest nursing home operator, which is under investigation for poor care and a “flagrant disregard for human life,” according to a devastating exposé by the Sacramento Bee’s investigative reporting team. (http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/nursing-homes/article24015475.html)

Meanwhile, Providence Group’s SFNC employees, who provide quality care to San Francisco’s elderly population while earning wages as low as $14 an hour, are now grappling with a huge increase in their cost of living that threatens to drive them and their families out of one of the nation’s most expensive cities.

Paired with the cuts Sutter Health is attempting to force upon its employees at California Pacific Medical Center, Providence Group’s actions at SFNC are contributing to a drastic decrease in the quality of life for San Francisco healthcare workers that will only accelerate the rapid gentrification of The City, which has seen people of color evicted from their homes at alarming rates — rates that have jumped more than 170 percent in recent years. 

Providence Group not only left workers scrambling to navigate a new healthcare system and deal with the ramifications for their families, it also cut their sick leave and vacation time. These short-sighted business tactics, though directed at workers, will have long-term consequences for SFNC residents and their families.

“These sudden cuts to our healthcare will make it difficult to recruit quality caregivers in the future,” says Certified Nursing Assistant Marilyn Aquino, “and that will undermine the quality of care SFNC residents receive.”

Providence Group is apparently operating under the assumption that a workforce composed almost exclusively of women of color won’t have the strength to stand up to them. But San Francisco Nursing Center’s fifty caregivers, with the support of many of the center’s residents and their families, as well as city and community leaders, are doing just that, having voted unanimously to strike. Their demand is simple: that Providence Group negotiate with the workers over changes to their health plan. 

“No one wants a strike,” says Certified Nursing Assistant Cynthia Yee, “but Providence has left us no choice. They have shown profound disrespect for a staff of dedicated caregivers by refusing to consult with us over major changes that impact our families and our livelihoods.”

The National Union of Healthcare Workers is a member-led, democratic movement for quality patient care and a stronger voice for workers. NUHW represents 11,000 healthcare workers throughout California, including 50 nursing assistants, rehab assistants, and housekeeping, laundry, and food-service workers at San Francisco Nursing Center.