Cedars-Sinai workers authorize potential strike amid contract negotiations

Union members representing 2,000 workers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles voted to allow their negotiating teams to go on strike in May.

Members of United Healthcare Workers West took action after their contract with the non-profit hospital ended on March 31st. Contract negotiations began on March 21, according to the union.

The workers are demanding that the hospital negotiate “in good faith” on staffing levels, patient and employee safety and wages, the press release said. The union announced on Monday that 93% of employees voted to approve a three-day strike if negotiations do not go through.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West represents Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s staff, including Certified Nurse Assistants, Carriers, Environmental Service Workers, Factory Workers, Surgical Technicians, and Food Service Technicians.

The union plans to picket the hospital on April 20 and expects to announce tentative strike dates at that time, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West spokeswoman Renee Saldanha said.

“We are committed to providing our patients with the best possible care, but this has become increasingly difficult as our workload has increased significantly during the pandemic,” José Sanchez, lead carrier at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said in a press release.

The high cost of living in Los Angeles, exacerbated by inflation, was “part of the tipping point” for the vote to allow the strike, Saldanha said. Some members of the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West at the hospital earn as little as $17 an hour, she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked numerous protests among U.S. healthcare workers, including unionization campaigns, strike permits, and protests. Employees pushed for changes such as increased headcount, improved security, and increased remuneration.

The California United Nurses Association/Health Professionals Union alone hosted five jobs last year to represent occupational therapists, speech therapists, pharmacists and nurses in California and Hawaii.

Kaiser Permanente and unions representing nearly 50,000 workers reached a contract agreement days before tens of thousands planned to go on strike in November.

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