More than 1,500 Keck-USC health workers are voting this week on whether to allow a five-day strike as they fight for better wages and benefits and the right to protest unsafe working conditions.
If approved, the work would be stopped at USC’s Keck Hospital, USC’s Norris Integral Cancer Center, and several university clinics and call centers.
The strike authorization vote began on Monday and will end on Sunday, May 23rd. Contracts expired for most USC workers in late April. No strike date has been set and negotiations were scheduled for Friday 21 May and Thursday 27 May.
Workers – including nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, housewives, medical technicians and licensed professional nurses – are represented by the National Union of Health Workers.
On Friday, they held a rally at noon in Hazard Park, Los Angeles, with the presence of several elected officials and community leaders.
Brian Dodero, respiratory therapist at USC’s Keck Hospital, said the union wants USC to include a pandemic preparedness component in the new contract.
“This has been a unique pandemic that none of us expected and we want to make sure that what we have learned is included,” he said.
Dodero said USC has halved the workers ’retirement plan due to a $ 852 million deal with more than 700 women who have been sexually abused by former campus gynecologist George Tyndall.
“We’re trying to protect our future, so we want to get that money back,” he said. “We are told they will start again with this at the beginning of the year, but we want something in writing and we want the money to be retroactive.”
In a statement released Friday, USC’s Keck Medicine said its proposals offer improvements in many areas, including staffing, job security, over-market compensation and other issues important to its health system and its employees.
“We continue to hope to be able to consolidate an agreement without work stoppages,” the statement said. “Keck Medicine has maintained exemplary security measures at all stages of the pandemic. Taking care of our staff, both physically and emotionally, is critical to ensuring the highest quality care for our patients. ”
Keck said his Care for the Caregiver program includes free housing for shift workers to help family members stay safe during the pandemic. Staff also have access to free health care, as well as tutoring for young children, legal services and grocery services, according to Keck.
A union fact sheet shows that USC health workers earn an average of 14% less than their UCLA counterparts.
The starting salary for a USC radiology technology, for example, is $ 32.56 per hour, while the same position pays $ 41.05 per hour at UCLA. An entry-level lung technology at USC earns $ 37.76 an hour at USC, according to the fact sheet, more than $ 3 below the initial salary of $ 41 at UCLA.
The union leaders claim that USC proposes to eliminate the right of workers to make pickets, brochures or inform the public about the problems of hospitals. The union also seeks to ban USC’s ability to outsource positions to low-wage non-union workers.
The union said USC has eliminated nine paid vacations for Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center workers, adding that it rewrote rules that made it easier for workers to be laid off and that employees could use the allotted time to care for relatives.