San Francisco Nursing Center healthcare workers launch second strike: Thursday and Friday, August 20 and 21

August 19th, 2015

Caregivers protest new owner’s unethical labor practices, failure to return to bargaining table as promised following one-day strike July 22

Community leaders will join fifty workers on the picket line

SAN FRANCISCO — Fifty NUHW-represented caregivers at San Francisco Nursing Center will strike for two days, Thursday and Friday, August 20 and 21, and picket in front of the facility at 5767 Mission Street from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

The strike follows a one-day strike July 22, during which Providence called the police on the striking workers, despite the fact that San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was walking the picket line with workers at the time. Despite Providence’s assurances that they would meet with workers to negotiate following the July strike, not one meeting has taken place. 

Community leaders, including Supervisor John Avalos, will join workers on the picket line and speak at noontime rallies Thursday and Friday.

NUHW-represented workers at Brius-owned San Rafael Healthcare and Wellness Center in Marin County will also strike Thursday and Friday. 

Utah-based Providence Group, Inc., bought San Francisco Nursing Center 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 shifted 90 percent or more of the company’s healthcare costs to their workers and thereby transferred at least $31,500 a month — $378,000 a year — to Providence’ bottom line, according to calculations by NUHW. Most SFNC workers cannot afford the more expensive plan Providence has put in place. Only half of the workforce has enrolled in it; many have been forced to instead rely on taxpayer-funded safety net programs like Medi-Cal. 

Meanwhile, the cuts are driving experienced SFNC caregivers, who know the residents’ daily needs and habits, to leave the facility. Last week, a longtime SFNC caregiver left for a job at a nursing home that provides better benefits and working conditions. 

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 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 Cynthia Yee, “and that will undermine the quality of care SFNC residents receive.”

During the July 22 strike, Providence assured a delegation that included of Supervisor John Avalos, San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson, and Hillary Ronen from District 9 Supervisor David Campos’ office that Providence was eager to return to the bargaining table to reach an agreement with workers on their healthcare coverage. However, Providence rejected eight bargaining dates proposed by the workers, effectively postponing negotiations for more than a month, and has informed the workers that they are taking the workers’ Kaiser plan off the table in retaliation for striking. 

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 for a second time. Their demand is simple: that Providence Group negotiate with the workers over changes to their health plan. 

“No one wants a strike,” says 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.”

Workers at San Rafael Healthcare and Wellness Center will also strike Thursday and Friday. The San Rafael and San Francisco facilities have different owners, but both employ union-busting Los Angeles attorney Josh Sable to handle “labor relations.” In addition to wages that have stagnated for four years and drastic cuts to healthcare coverage and benefits, San Rafael Healthcare and Wellness Center workers report dangerously low staffing levels that jeopardize the center’s residents. The facility is owned by 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 an exposé by the Sacramento Bee: http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/nursing-homes/article24015475.html

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.