UCSF medical centers prepare for strike

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AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger.

On Tuesday morning at 4 a.m., a 48-hour strike will begin at University of California medical centers across the state.

The strike was called by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, a union representing more than 13,000 UC patient care technical workers.

AFSCME has been at an impasse on contract negotiations with UC for months. Administrators have pointed to proposed pension reform measures as the central issue, while the union has highlighted rising executive salaries and bonuses that they deem unfair at a time when frontline staff positions have been cut. AFSCME also recently called for new caps on UC executives’ pensions.

Speaking on a conference call earlier today, Jack Stobo, senior vice president for health sciences and services at the UC system, told reporters that the upcoming strike would affect patient care. He said 150 surgeries had to be rescheduled, and estimated that some 100 patient transfers would be delayed. “We have canceled a number of chemotherapy sessions and approximately half of radiation sessions with patients who are about to start radiation therapy,” he added. 

UC administrators pegged the total cost of the two-day strike at about $20 million for the entire system, mostly associated with hiring temporary staffers. They did not provide the number of temporary staffers that would be brought on. Stobo said the strike “will impact our ability to provide the quality services that we’re committed to provide to a large number of patients.”

AFSCME, on the other hand, says it has been working for months to craft a patient protection plan. "We have a patient protection task force in place in the event of a medical emergency," such as an event that would cause a major influx of patients, AFSCME 3299 spokesperson Todd Stenhouse told the Bay Guardian. "Our workers are the ones ... who understand the stakes. That's why they've taken pains to make sure patients are protected."

Union representatives say they are striking in part due to concern about the long-term erosion of patient care, stemming from cuts to frontline staff positions earlier this year.

“This strike is not just about the next two days – it’s about the fact that UC is endangering its patients every day with chronic understaffing and reckless cost cutting,” said AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger. “If we don’t stand up to it now, we are inviting disaster when thousands of new patients begin flooding UC hospitals with the onset of the Affordable Care Act in the coming year.”

Earlier today, a California Superior Court decision enjoined certain respiratory therapists and other critical classifications from striking, but the ruling does not prevent the strike from going forward. The decision stemmed from an effort by UC to halt the strike by petitioning for injunctive relief with the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB). The labor board upheld the union's right to strike and only sought a temporary injunction in court.

Meanwhile, AFSCME-represented UC service workers will also hold a "sympathy strike" in support of patient care employees, and the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE), a union which represents pharmacists, clinical lab scientists, social workers and other health care professionals, is also planning a daylong sympathy strike on May 21. 

Jelger Kalmijn, systemwide president of UPTE, told the Bay Guardian that his union membership had voted to strike because “we support our sisters and brothers who work at UCSF.” He added that UPTE is also in contract negotiations with UC, and noted that pension reform is a key issue. “People stay here because of the benefits and the pension,” Kalmijn said. “It’s a serious concern. When [UC] makes half a billion in profit, why should employees have to give up their right to retire with dignity?”

Comments

300 layoffs.

Goldman Sachs fires the lowest-performing 10% of employees every year. They're the most powerful IB on the planet and absolutely best-in-class.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 11:35 am

commercial for the elites that will never let you into their ranks.

Self delusion.

Look up, not down.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 11:55 am

Layoffs aren't driven purely by one year's P and L statement, and it is naive to think that it would be.

A business entity needs to achieve it's target ROI and if costs are impeding that, then they must be cut.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

far more pressure on facilities like UCSF. We can only hope that some of the legal challenges to ObamaCare will render it invalid, so that existing service levels can be maintained.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 6:58 am

These folks are paid extraordinary benefits, funded by those who receive no such thing.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 7:04 am

from the rest of us. For too long they have had job security, inflated pay and ludicrously generous benefits.

Management can hold out for total victory here because they have the support of taxpayers and voters. The workers just look greedy, selfish and out of touch.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 7:19 am

UCSF employees work extremely hard every day without the necessary staff to prevent exhaustion. Everyday we are expected to do more and work faster with less staff. UC management has consistently received salary increases and bonuses. UC management has a responsibility to protect the patients that we serve. They risk that everyday with their inadequate staffing levels and current staff layoffs of direct care givers. UCSF has been fined by the state 8 times in the last six years for patient harm. We stand up to defend our ability to provide safe and effective patient care. We stand up to protect our contracts that UC has no real reason to attack. We Care For You, not the CEO making $1 Million dollars a year.

Posted by Maureen Dugan RN on May. 21, 2013 @ 7:15 am

it is not tenable for you to continue to receive healthcare and pension benefits that are far more generous than those who pay your salaires, pay taxes and often have to bear the full cost of their own pensions and healthcare.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 7:36 am

The plantation mentality keeps us on it.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 7:40 am

UCSF workers do.

Bogus analogy.

Posted by anon on May. 21, 2013 @ 7:52 am

That is a metaphor, not an analogy. Look up, not down.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 8:54 am
Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 11:33 am

I think that it is completely outrageous that these people are going to go out on strike and impede patient's care and treatment.

I'm sure assholes like Greg who posted above that say that this is good for patients would be singing a very different tune if it was them who were being denied life saving treatment. But OH NOES! Fuck the patients, let them suffer while we negotiate more money.

I'm not even weighing in on the merits of what the workers are seeking here. They may very well be in "the right", but to make their case through the increased suffering of cancer patients is simply unconscionable.

Posted by Dan Orseck on May. 21, 2013 @ 7:46 am

considers themselves a healthcare "professional".

Perhaps we need a law making it illegal to go onstrike, like we have for cops, air traffic controllers and other critical staff.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 7:57 am

And I know that's hard to hear if you're caught up in the middle of a treatment that may (or may not -they could well have contingencies for the strike) get disrupted. But in the end it's people like you who are going to get better care as a result of the UCSF workers position. And me, btw, because I use UCSF as well.

These workers are fighting for staffing levels and better working conditions (which ultimately translates to better care), while management is fighting to cut staffing levels to the bone. In the short term, some patients may be temporarily inconvenienced. But if management wins, ultimately patients will lose in the long term.

Posted by Greg on May. 21, 2013 @ 7:57 am

need to be sustainable. And they are currently not for all public sector workers. There won;t be a UCSF if the pension fund continues to take monies that could otherwise be directed at patient care.

Your other point is effectively blackmail, which i already said. Pay us more or we'll treat you badly is not a valid policy - UCSF workers should be working at 100% regardless - and not according to how happy they are with their benefits.

Any worker who cant give 100% needs to be fired and replaced.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 8:07 am

We have people suffering, who are in need of surgeries, treatments, test results, etc. etc., and these are needed NOW. Don't talk to me about possible contingencies, because all of these things are going to be put on hold for the majority of patients. We're supposed to take some solace in a skeleton crew handling only the most severe cases? How dare you trivialize this by deeming it a "temporary inconvenience." This is literally life-and-death for some patients, and for others it is prolonging suffering, it is not some touchy-feely "lets make all the workers happy bullshit." I'll say it again and I've signed my name to it: it is unconscionable to make your case using sick people seeking care as your leverage.

Go back to dreaming about knocking down some dam somewhere or some other such crap you fantasize about and take your callous attitude regarding the people in the cancer ward with you.

Posted by Dan Orseck on May. 21, 2013 @ 9:52 am

We have people suffering, who are in need of surgeries, treatments, test results, etc. etc., and these are needed NOW. Don't talk to me about possible contingencies, because all of these things are going to be put on hold for the majority of patients. We're supposed to take some solace in a skeleton crew handling only the most severe cases? How dare you trivialize this by deeming it a "temporary inconvenience." This is literally life-and-death for some patients, and for others it is prolonging suffering, it is not some touchy-feely "lets make all the workers happy bullshit." I'll say it again and I've signed my name to it: it is unconscionable to make your case using sick people seeking care as your leverage.

Go back to dreaming about knocking down some dam somewhere or some other such crap you fantasize about and take your callous attitude regarding the people in the cancer ward with you.

Posted by Dan Orseck on May. 21, 2013 @ 9:55 am

The man substitutes dogma for real compassion.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 11:33 am

I and my whole family are also UCSF patients. This isn't some hypothetical thing with me. This is about my quality of care, and yours.

Posted by Greg on May. 21, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

He's just arrived and he already sees thru you.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

At least Dan's a real person. I disagree with his position, but I see where he's coming from. I don't think he really wants to think about the big picture, and I understand that if you're in the middle of cancer therapy. You want what's best for you, now. Not necessarily best for the patients as a whole in general. But with that mentality, the management can just use patients as hostages for policies that only serve to destroy patient care. Dan also sounds like he's generally unsympathetic to labor, but that's Ok. It's actually refreshing to hear from a conservative who's not a troll like you.

Posted by Greg on May. 21, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

It sounds like UC workers don't even get this simple fact nor do most voters.

...Does anyone connect potholes to defined benefit pensions....anyone?

How much per year is the City of SF general fund now spending on pensions? $600 million? AND SFERS is STILL billions short of being fully funded...

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 9:08 am

major employers. Although the private sector has gotten the message and converted to DC, the public sector is back in the dark ages.

Posted by Guest on May. 21, 2013 @ 11:32 am

If things are so bad at UCSF, then the workers should stop working until the issues are settled. Or else shut up and get back to work. A 2-day strike uses patients as pawns to up the stakes in a dispute with management. Shameful!

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