Workers fighting back against illegal Providence St. Joseph lockout

January 10th, 2020

The Eureka Times-Standard reported Wednesday, Jan. 8 about NUHW workers holding Providence St. Joseph Health accountable for illegally locking out its caregivers in retaliation for holding a one-day strike.

Caregivers went on strike Nov. 20 at Providence hospitals in Eureka, Fontuna, Petaluma and Napa to demand a fair contract that guarantees safe staffing and pays enough to help the hospitals recruit and retain qualified workers. In retaliation, the hospital locked out many workers for four days following the strike.

Eureka City Councilman Austin Allison, who works as a monitor tech at St. Joseph Hospital, participated in the November strike and said he was “unable to return to work for five days,” as a result.

He said a community fund was created for strike participants and NUHW members who lost pay as a result of having hours filled in by replacement workers that week.

“A lot of community members helped to pitch in, including some other unions like Humboldt Bay Fire,” Allison said. “I did not take advantage of it because I thought someone worse off needed it more.”

But he took issue with having two replacement workers come in to do the job he typically does alone. He worked at the hospital when two people were assigned to the job and he calls doing the job solo an understaffing situation.

“They know that it’s extremely stressful to watch 40 patients all by yourself,” he said. “When there used to be two monitor techs, it was night and day in terms of the working conditions. To watch 40 patients, you can’t do as good of a job as when you watch 20 patients. Your workload doubled but your eyeballs didn’t.”

Locking out workers is an intimidation tactic designed to keep workers from exercising their right to strike. Providence also locked out workers at its hospital in Tarzana last year, but workers were made whole in the ensuing contract.

“For us, this is not a bargaining chip,” NUHW’s Vaness Coe told the paper. “What they did was illegal. … We want them to make these workers (whole).”