Cedars-Sinai workers start a five-day wage strike

Nearly a thousand workers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center went on a weeklong strike on Monday, demanding higher pay and better working conditions during negotiations for a union contract.

The previous three-year contract between Cedars-Sinai, a nonprofit healthcare organization, and Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) expired on March 31, and the next round of negotiations will take place on Tuesday.

SEIU-UHW spokesperson Renée Saldaña said workers are demanding an 8% wage increase during the first year of the new contract, followed by a 6% increase over the next two years, to beat record inflation in the U.S. . This is the first workers’ strike in Cedars-Sinai since 1979, Saldaña said, and the first called by the SEIU-UWH.

The union represents approximately 14% of Cedars-Sinai’s 14,000 employees, primarily those who work in maintenance, service and clinical support. SEIU-UHW said it gave management 10 days’ notice before going on strike, which is expected to end on Friday at 7pm.

Cedars-Sinai said the medical center will remain open and fully operational during the strike and that nurses, doctors and researchers are not members of the union.

Cedars-Sinai workers are negotiating for higher wages and more hospital staff.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Union members hold placards during a protest outside a Los Angeles hospital.

Cedars-Sinai workers are negotiating for higher wages and more hospital staff.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

In a statement Sunday, the center’s president and chief executive, Thomas M. Priselac, said management has been negotiating in good faith with the union “to reach a fair and mutually beneficial agreement for employees.”

Healthcare workers from other Southern California facilities, including Kaiser Permanente and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, have protested what they believe are low wages and dangerous working conditions amid a two-year pandemic that has increased daily risk. and the stress hospital workers face at work.

Now, inflation and soaring prices are hitting households and increasing the pressure.

“I’ve made a lot of sacrifices since day one, when my unit was converted to a COVID ward,” said Yudis Cruz, 61, a Cedars-Sinai clinical partner.

Cruz said he saw colleagues die and colleagues lost loved ones they had infected with COVID-19. “My son was infected with COVID while working in the hospital,” Cruz said. “We deserve respect, recognition and fair wages to keep up with today’s high cost of living.”

Jose Sanchez, a primary transporter responsible for moving patients and supplies in and through the medical center, said his sister, who also works in Cedars-Sinai, now takes a bus to work rather than her usual one. driving because gasoline prices are too high.

People hold placards during a protest outside a hospital.

Cedars-Sinai workers report security concerns, shortages of staff and low wages.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s sad given our wage levels, which are lower than what supermarket workers earn,” Sanchez said.

The union and the hospital management have not reached an agreement on a salary increase formula. Each party accuses the other of not negotiating in good faith.

Priselac said Cedars-Sinai offered 16% salary increases for the duration of the three-year contract, starting immediately, and that the union broke off negotiations over the weekend without responding to management’s latest offer.

Union representative Esmie Grubbs said the 16% increase would not apply to all workers and that most would get a much lower wage increase according to the formula proposed by management.

The union said in a statement last month that hospital workers are asking their employer to stop engaging in unfair labor practices and bargain in good faith.