Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Verity Health Workers: “Why did SEIU-UHW give away our health insurance, sick pay, and retirement benefits and freeze our pay scales?”

Nearly 2,000 workers at a chain of California hospitals are asking why SEIU-UHW officials agreed to freeze their pay scale and give away health insurance, vacation, sick pay, retirement benefits, and other benefits during contract negotiations with the company’s top executives.

Workers are angry, say Tasty’s sources, after NUHW recently negotiated a contract with the same company, Verity Health System, but didn’t accept any of the cuts negotiated by SEIU-UHW officials.

NUHW’s contract, ratified in December, covers workers at two of the company’s six hospitals. SEIU-UHW represents workers at the company’s remaining four hospitals.

Here’s what happened.

In November 2015, Dave Regan and other SEIU-UHW officials negotiated massive cuts for SEIU-UHW’s approximately 2,000 members at Verity Health System, formerly known as the Daughters of Charity Health System. SEIU-UHW represents workers at O’Connor Hospital, St. Louise Regional Hospital, St. Francis Medical Center, and St. Vincent Medical Center.

During negotiations, Regan agreed to freeze workers’ wage scales and to eliminate a whole range of benefits -- including health insurance, vacation pay, sick pay, and retirement benefits -- for hundreds of SEIU-UHW’s members who work part time at the hospitals.

As far as the benefit cuts, Regan agreed to change the contract’s so-called “benefit eligibility standard” so that part-time workers must now work at least 30 hours a week, instead of 20 hours a week, to be eligible for health insurance, sick pay, vacation pay, etc.

Regan also agreed to eliminate float differentials and short-call pay, cut Paid Time Off (PTO) accruals, eliminate “Jury Duty Leave” and “Education Leave,” eliminate future Extended Sick Leave accruals, as well as multiple other cuts. Regan also accepted the elimination of retiree health benefits for all employees at St. Louise Regional Hospital and O'Connor Hospital, according to a copy of the deal.

SEIU-UHW members called Regan’s contract “the worst contract in our history.”

To add insult to injury, Regan jammed the wage freeze and benefit cuts down workers’ throats by using ramrod ratification votes.
Dave Regan, SEIU-UHW
Two months later, approximately 650 workers at two Verity hospitals (Seton Medical Center and Seton Coastside Hospital) began their own negotiations with Verity officials after decertifying SEIU-UHW and voting to join NUHW.

With NUHW, workers successfully fought off all of management’s benefit cuts and won increases of 3% per year to workers’ wage scales during each year of the three-year contract. In addition, NUHW members won one-time “equity” pay increases of up to 12%.

Across California, Regan and SEIU-UHW have a well-documented history of cutting backroom deals with hospital CEOs to gut workers’ pay, benefits, and working conditions. Now, at the Verity hospitals, Regan’s dirty deeds have produced a lopsided outcome for employees who do the same work just miles apart. SEIU-UHW members, working 40 miles away from their NUHW counterparts, now receive vastly inferior benefits from the same company.  

Regan’s cuts offer another jarring contradiction.

SEIU officials have rightfully criticized Trump’s effort to cut health coverage under the Medicaid Program and the Affordable Care Act. So, ummm, why did one of SEIU’s top officials – Dave Regan – agree to eliminate health coverage for hundreds of SEIU’s own members without any kind of fight?

And while we’re on the topic of contradictions, why did Regan ink his sell-out deal with Verity, a company controlled by New York hedge fund BlueMountain Capital?

So much for SEIU’s fight against the 1% and the billionaire class, who are pocketing unprecedented profits while US workers struggle to pay rent and put food on the table.