SF Chronicle: Activists call CPMC deal “unacceptable” and “glaringly deficient”

California Pacific Medical CenterMarch 28, 2012

John Cote, City Insider, SF Chronicle

Well, that didn’t take long.

The same day Mayor Ed Lee publicly announced he had struck a deal with California Pacific Medical Center to build a massive 555-bed hospital on Van Ness Avenue, rebuild St. Luke’s hospital in the Mission and overhaul their medical facilities around the city, more than 70 people took to the steps of City Hall to denounce the controversial deal as a giveaway that, among other things, fails to create enough local jobs.

Lee, whose campaign platform could be summarized as “jobs, jobs, jobs,” has touted the deal as a means to create 1,500 construction jobs, pump $2.5 billion into the economy and get two seismically safe hospitals built.

But skeptics of the agreement, including unionized nurses, affordable housing proponents, employment advocates and others, contend the provisions for permanent jobs only require CPMC to hire 40 residents per year for five years, or less than 5 percent of the total jobs created. The Sutter Health-affiliated CPMC is projecting over 4,170 new permanent jobs across its city facilities by 2030.

“It’s really puzzling, too, and troubling, that this mayor, who has been promoting jobs as his number one priority … could cut a deal with such a low bar and really let CPMC off the hook,” said Gordon Mar of the working-class employment group Jobs With Justice.

Mar called the deal “glaringly deficient” on the jobs front, including the lack of provisions to provide job security for current employees working in facilities slated to be downsized or closed.

Long-time affordable housing advocate Calvin Welch blasted CPMC’s $62 million affordable housing contribution under the plan, a figure that includes $29 million in down payment assistance to help its employees buy homes, as “unacceptable” because it covers just a fraction of the project’s impact on the housing market.

Sam Singer, a spokesman for CPMC, dismissed the arguments.

“First it doesn’t create enough jobs, then it doesn’t create enough housing for all the jobs it’s creating,” Singer chuckled. “These guys need to make up their mind.”

Sal Rosselli, president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, representing about 750 CPMC employees, said “Sutter-CPMC has been the worst hospital employer in San Francisco” in terms of wages, safe staffing levels and its approach to unions. He faulted the new deal for not including worker protections.

Lee’s staff maintains that federal law prohibits including labor provisions in the development deal, but Paul Kumar of National Union of Healthcare Workers said the mayor has plenty of tools at his disposal to wrest concessions from CPMC, which posted almost $1 billion in profit from 2005 through 2010, or $830 million over that period when losses at St. Luke’s are factored in.

Lee has hailed the deal as “an unprecedented investment in the future of our city” that came after months of tough negotiations.

“This new agreement will move San Francisco’s healthcare system into the 21stcentury,” the mayor said in a statement.