Hundreds Strike at Cedars-Sinai Hospital Citing Safety and Low Pay

The union says unfair labor practices, employee and patient safety concerns, and low wages made workers walk off the job Monday morning

Hundreds of healthcare workers launched a weeklong strike this morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), which has been bargaining with hospital management over a new labor contract since March 21, is accusing Cedars-Sinai of “unfair labor practices as well as employee and patient safety concerns, short-term staffing, and low wages,” according to a statement released by the union.

SEIU-UHW represents roughly 2,000 certified nursing assistants, surgical technicians, sterile processing technicians, transporters, environmental services, plant operations, and food service technicians. The hospital has about 14,000 employees, according to City News Service.

Doctors, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners are not part of the union and would not be among those participating in the strike, CNS reports. Sally A. Stewart, Cedar-Sinai’s associate director of media relations, told CNS that the union had given them notice of the demonstration and that the hospital is prepared to maintain patient safety.

“Our nurses and physicians will continue to provide the high level of patient care for which we are known,” Stewart said.

A union spokesperson told CNS that workers planned to walk off their jobs, in their uniforms, at 5 a.m. Monday and continue picketing through 7 p.m. Friday unless a settlement is reached.

Luz Oglesby, a clinical partner at Cedars-Sinai, said she and other members of the union are “very frustrated that despite us risking our lives to deliver world-class healthcare for our patients,” management has not met them halfway.

“Management doesn’t seem to take patient or worker safety seriously,” she said in the union statement. “In our latest round of bargaining, Cedars-Sinai rejected our proposals on PPE stockpiles, COVID exposure notifications, keeping pregnant and immunocompromised workers away from COVID patients, and other safety measures. We’re asking for basic workplace protections and respect for the lives and health of caregivers and patients.”

The union also called attention to Cedars-Sinai being given a hospital safety grade of ‘D’ by the independent consumer healthcare watchdog, the Leapfrog Group. The ‘D’ rating is a downgrade from the medical center’s previous score of ‘C,’ which was issued in spring 2021, according to the SEIU-UHW. The union said “below average” grades in infection control, a range of surgical problems, safety issues such as bed sores and blood clots, and practices to prevent errors contributed to the medical center’s ‘D’ rating.

Earlier this month, Cedars-Sinai employees held a protest to call attention to the “hospital’s threat to workers and patients after Cal/OSHA issued the hospital seven citations for violating OSHA regulations designed to protect workplace safety,” the union statement said. “Four of the citations were classified as serious health and safety violations related to COVID prevention.”

The union is also demanding higher wages, citing inflation and increased gas prices, CNS reports. They also said short staffing has made it difficult to do their jobs effectively.

“This is not where I want to be. I would rather be inside serving my community, taking care of my patients,” Taryne Mosley, a surgical technician told CNS. “This is the last thing that we want to do, but at the end of the day, we were forced to do this.”

She added, “We want to go home to our families on time at night, instead of being here overtime for hours.”

Cedar-Sinai’s chief human resources officer told CNS that limited staffing is a major issue across all health care systems and the hospital pays workers top dollar to pick up shifts, adding that he believes Cedars is a market leader when it comes to pay.

“We understand that there are issues and concerns that they have, but we think that we’ve addressed them in a very positive way,” he said.

Sally A. Stewart, Cedar-Sinai’s associate director of media relations, told CNS that the hospital has “maintained strong working relationships with our SEIU-UHW-represented employees for years, and we are committed to strengthening those bonds. We look forward to continuing our discussions with SEIU-UHW to reach a mutual agreement.”

The strike arrives just days after a man filed a civil rights lawsuit against Cedars-Sinai, accusing the hospital of racism because how it handled the care of his wife who died just hours after giving birth there in 2016, the Los Angeles Times reports. Kira Dixon Johnson, 39 at the time, went to the hospital to deliver her second son by cesarean section, but died after hemorrhaging blood, according to the lawsuit filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court by her husband, Charles Johnson.

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