In December, 140 Teamsters 856 frontline health care workers at Sutter Eden Medical Center, that include respiratory therapists, lab techs, imaging techs, and other Teamsters health care professionals, took to the streets, striking the hospital to demand fair treatment.
The decision to strike was forced by Sutter Eden Medical Center’s lack of leadership at the upper management level that resulted in chronic understaffing and shortages of PPE, which all led to patient care issues. Some workers even had to resort to using 3D printers to make their own PPE not provided by the hospital.
In negotiations, instead of recognizing the heroic work being done on the front lines of fighting the COVID 19 pandemic, Sutter Eden Medical Center instead proposed drastic takeaways including cuts to health benefits, retirement, even funeral leave, and more.
Not only is it absolutely reprehensible that hospital management decided to treat its frontline workers with such disregard and disrespect during this time, but Sutter did it while pocketing huge sums of tax payer dollars through the CARES Act and Medicare/Medicaid advance payments. Additionally, on the eve of the strike, the news program 60 Minutes aired a scathing exposé of Sutter Health, alleging the hospital system created monopolies in Northern California and engaged in price gouging, driving up health care costs for all of us. The report included the astonishing statistic that it is more expensive to have a baby in Sacramento than in New York City as a consequence of Sutter’s unethical practices.
As Teamsters, we are willing to fight back when pushed. With the support and full backing of all 17,000 members of Local 856, Eden Medical Center Teamsters took the fight to Sutter and demonstrated they wouldn’t back down. Sutter eventually came to its senses and we secured an agreement that increases wages and maintains our hard-fought contract language that Sutter had previously tried to take away. By standing together with strength and facing down a bully corporation, Eden Medical Center Teamsters won a fair contract that recognizes the hard work front line Teamsters are doing to fight the pandemic.
Many Eden Medical Center Teamsters have worked at the hospital for decades and have strong ties to the community. They care deeply about their patients and have pride in their work — just like all Teamsters. It is because of the pride, commitment, and expertise Local 856 members bring to the worksite that we need to stand up to employers who would otherwise cut corners or take advantage of turbulent times.
Collective action works. We know firsthand that employers are only too happy to exploit workers in even the best of times. The only way we can effectively stand up is for working people to stand together. I remain profoundly inspired by the Eden Medical Center Teamsters and all Local 856 members who continue to navigate the pandemic with dignity, grace, and courage. I am proud to stand with you all.
— Peter Finn, Secretary-Treasurer/Principal Officer