Workers to picket Sutter psychiatric hospital in Sacramento
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, Nov. 7
Contact: Matthew Artz, firstname.lastname@example.org, 510-435-8035
Picket lines will be held Wednesday, Nov. 8 from 6 to 8:30 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m.
Workers will picket the Sutter Center for Psychiatry on Wednesday demanding a fair contract that improves wages and addresses worsening conditions for patients. During the morning and afternoon picket lines, approximately 150 workers represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers will also vote on whether to authorize the first-ever strike at the 73-bed psychiatric hospital.
“We’re constantly being put in harm’s way, and patients are not getting the same level of care,” said Wes Moore, a patient care support specialist, who has worked at the hospital for six years. “COVID threw everything upside down. We’re getting much more difficult patients, and we don’t have the staffing levels to meet everyone’s needs. When I first started there was never a problem with people wanting to come to work, but we’ve lost a lot of good workers, and a lot of us are burning out.”
WHO/WHAT: A picket line of hospital workers including mental health therapists, social workers, licensed vocational nurses, housekeepers, kitchen staff and patient care support specialists. During the picket, workers will be voting on a strike authorization.
WHEN/WHERE: Picket lines will be held from 6 to 8:30 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday outside the Sutter Center for Psychiatry, 7700 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento. There will be a 3:30 p.m. rally featuring remarks from Sacramento Councilmembers Katie Valenzuela and Karina Talamantes and Assembly candidate Paula Villescaz. Elected officials scheduled to join workers during the morning picket include Councilmember Mai Vang and Assembly candidate Sean Frame.
The Sutter Center for Psychiatry is the only non-profit psychiatric hospital in Sacramento County and a key component of Sacramento County’s behavioral healthcare system. Owned by Sutter Health, the hospital contracts with the county to provide care for adults and children with serious mental health conditions. Medi-Cal recipients account for 57 percent of patients admitted to the hospital.
Workers formed a union two years ago to address low pay and have more say in the care they provide. As patient acuity levels have increased since the start of COVID, workers report that there’s often not enough staff on duty to provide adequate care. In a recent union survey, 79 percent of respondents reported experiencing understaffing at least once a week, while 58 percent reported experiencing unsafe situations at work due to understaffing.
Despite reporting a combined $477 million operating profits in 2021 and 2022, Sutter has refused to invest in its workforce at the psychiatric hospital or the care they provide. After 18 months of contract negotiations, Sutter continues to insist on the right to unilaterally cut healthcare benefits. The company stopped providing annual raises after workers formed a union and its offer to increase annual raises by 2.25 percent would not keep up with rising prices, forcing more workers to find jobs elsewhere.
“We do this work because we want to help people, and we formed a union so we could keep dedicated caregivers and have more say in the care we provide,” said Moore, who specializes in working with children at the hospital. “Sutter doesn’t seem to share our mission. It feels like they want to punish us, instead of working with us to make things better.”
The National Union of Healthcare Workers is democratic, member-led union that represents more than 17,000 healthcare workers in California and Hawai’i.