CASTRO VALLEY, CALIF. – Frontline health care workers, including respiratory care therapists, lab technicians, imaging technicians, and other health care professionals will strike Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley this Monday, December 14.
The workers are 140 members of Teamsters 856 who have been in negotiations with the hospital for ten months for a new contract.
“When we began negotiations, we proposed an extension agreement with modest wage increases in an effort to work together to get through the pandemic. This was nothing more than what the hospital gave its other frontline workers,” said Matthew Mullany, lead negotiator for the union. “Sutter Eden Medical Center refused, instead insisting on entering into full negotiations and proposing draconian takeaways for those it calls its “heroes”, including cuts to health benefits, retirement, even funeral leave, and more.
At Monday’s Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Council meeting, hospital employees detailed staffing shortages, lack of leadership, and shortages of PPE all leading to patient care issues at Eden. Workers also reported resorting to the use of 3D printers to make their own PPE not provided by the hospital.
Sutter Health has received $392 million in relief funding as part of the CARES Act and $999 million in advance payments under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Accelerated and Advance Payment Program.
“It is absolutely reprehensible that Sutter Eden Medical Center would treat its frontline workers with such disregard and disrespect during this time,” said Peter Finn, Teamsters 856 Principal Officer. “Eden Medical Center Teamsters have the support and full backing of the 17,000 members of Local 856 and the 1.4 million Teamsters nationwide,” Finn continued.
In November, 90% of the frontline workers voted down the hospital’s takeaways and authorized a strike. So far, Sutter Eden Medical Center has refused to return to the table to work with its frontline employees on a fair agreement.
“Our whole department has become much more anxious since COVID-19 hit — it’s made our job much more hazardous not only for us, but also for our families,” said Jennifer Lemke, a respiratory care therapist.
Respiratory therapists are part of the three-person team that goes in with the doctors and nurses to intubate COVID-19 patients. They are often the last people patients see before they are put on ventilators.
“I’ve always felt so loyal to my employer,” said Lemke, who has worked at Eden for 33 years. “It’s devastating to be treated like this by Sutter — they’re not invested in us,” she said.
Founded in 1949, Teamsters Local 856 represents 17,000 hardworking members in the San Francisco Bay Area, North Bay, Sacramento, and Central Valley communities.