We kept our pension at Salinas, now hospital directors may face criminal charges

NewsMarch 10, 2012

In January, my co-workers and I at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital won a contract with raises and no concessions.

Today, after a California state auditor’s report exposed possible “criminal acts” by SVMH’s directors, we’re putting healthcare executives everywhere on notice that they won’t get away with treating our hospitals like their personal cash cows.

Former Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital CEO Sam Downing collected eight separate pension plans including $4.9 million in “retirement and severance benefits,” yet he proposed to eliminate Salinas workers’ only pension plan.

We stopped management from making any changes to our pension plan. And today, Downing and a top hospital official who approved excessive payouts to executives now face possible criminal charges for conflict-of-interest violations, and may face fines, imprisonment, and permanent disqualification from holding any office in the state.

That’s what we can achieve by belonging to a union that’s willing to fight.

We’re not the only hospital with greedy executives. Workers at Kaiser Permanente have learned that Kaiser’s CEO George Halvorson and COO Bernard Tyson both collect eight pension plans apiece. In fact, George Halvorson makes $9 million per year even though he leads a “not for profit” healthcare corporation.

That’s obscene.

What’s worse is that George Halvorson is proposing to eliminate Kaiser workers’ defined-benefit pension, the exact same thing they tried to do to us at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital.

SEIU and the Coalition of Kaiser Unions are preparing to roll over for Kaiser management in contract bargaining. We saw the same attitude from SEIU here in Salinas two years ago. After we voted to join NUHW, we kept our jobs and our benefits and held our bosses accountable for their criminal misconduct.

We fought back and we won in Salinas. It’s time for Kaiser and SEIU to understand that healthcare workers won’t roll over for management.

We’re NUHW, and we’re fighting back


Esther Fierro-Nuñez, Cashier, Elected Rep Chair
Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital 
National Union of Healthcare Workers