June 17, 2017
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Watsonville, CA – More than 100 union workers at Watsonville Community Hospital began a three-day strike June 14, their second in the last month.
The walkout by Service Employees International Union came five days after hospital representatives refused to show up for negotiations mediated by a federal agency. “We were hopeful that we’d finally get them to the table,” surgical technician Chris Gil said. SEIU field representative Kiernan Colby told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that hospital officials said they would negotiate only if the union agreed to pull ads it had placed in area newspapers alleging that a nearby hospital charged much less than Watsonville for common procedures. The union did so, he said, but hospital representatives still didn’t show up for talks scheduled on June 9. A hospital spokesperson declined to answer questions related to the strike, but charged that the SEIU workers were refusing to contribute to their health-insurance premiums, unlike “all other non-SEIU union members and non-unionized staff.” Colby said the spokesperson was “distorting a legal argument.” The 106-bed hospital has been owned by a for-profit operator since 1998. Read more