Union claims Sutter Health cancels mediation, 350 Antioch healthcare workers strike again over unfair labor practices

Healthcare workers protest during strike at Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch on Oct. 11, 2021. Source: SEIU-UHW Facebook page video screenshot.

Starting today, Monday, November 8, 2021; Congressmen DeSaulnier and McNerney urge Sutter to come to an agreement with workers over safe staffing

Sutter Delta will remain staffed and open

“they negotiated the contract…and it was approved by more than 3,000 employees at seven other SEIU-represented hospitals across our system weeks ago… the union at Sutter Delta continues to be the one outlier” – Sutter Health spokesperson

By Renée Saldaña, Media Relations, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West

On November 7, after management at Sutter Delta canceled the bargaining session which had been scheduled with federal mediation, U.S. Reps. Mark DeSaulnier and Jerry McNerney sent a letter to Sutter Health CEO Sarah Krevans, urging the healthcare company to reach an agreement with workers in writing on unsafe staffing.

“We understand that finding trained and qualified health care workers is a challenge right now, not just for Sutter Delta, but across the country,” wrote U.S. Reps. DeSaulnier and McNerney. “It is our understanding that this hospital has not seen a significant drop in patients over the last few years, but dozens of workers have resigned their positions during this time and have not been replaced, which has greatly increased the workload on those who remain… For the health and safety of the people of Antioch and surrounding communities, this issue must be resolved.”

The letter is available to view here: SEIU-UHW-Sutter-Delta-Letter

Employees at Sutter Delta Medical Center say conditions are dire for caregivers and patients inside their facility as management ignores concerns about understaffing and working conditions. Workers are worried about patient and staff safety and say they’ve been pushed to the limit by their employer.

“We voted to strike because we want to put a stop to Sutter’s unfair labor practices and because we care about patient safety, and we want safe staffing levels. We are exhausted and overwhelmed, and we feel like Sutter management is ignoring our concerns,” said Stefanye Sartain, a respiratory therapist at Sutter Delta Medical Center. “Our hospital has multiple job openings that haven’t been posted because management feels they don’t need the positions filled. But we are so short-staffed, it’s hard to provide adequate care. Sutter is eroding the staff and it’s not safe for patients or workers.”

Workers at Sutter Delta Medical Center say staffing shortages predate the COVID-19 pandemic and, as a result of years of poor staffing and management decisions by Sutter, the hospital already didn’t meet adequate staffing for average patient levels. Frontline caregivers say COVID exacerbated this already strained infrastructure, and their employer’s response to the pandemic has only worsened the preexisting crisis.

The strike consists of a variety of job classes at the hospital in Antioch, including emergency room technicians, respiratory therapists, phlebotomists, transporters, and licensed vocational nurses.

Today, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, caregivers in their uniforms will walk off the job at  Sutter Delta Medical Center, 3901 Lone Tree Way in Antioch, and will be joined by their coworkers and supporters. Later, caregivers in their uniforms and scrubs will form picket lines, hold signs, chant, and give speeches.

Sutter Health Claims Contract Approved By All Others, Sutter Delta Union Only Holdout

In response, a Sutter Health spokesperson wrote, “We are disappointed that minutes after our second mediated negotiation session, the union decided to give notice of another strike and walk away from patients who need them. After that, we had no choice but to turn our focus to our top priority – meeting the needs of our patients by securing qualified workers to replace the staff who decide to walk off the job instead of caring for patients. Because of this focus, Sutter Delta Medical Center will remain open, continuing to provide, safe, high-quality care for the people of Antioch and surrounding communities – just as it did during last month’s strike.

“We stand by our most recent offer, and the union should too: they negotiated the contract, were confident enough to place it on a ballot, and it was approved by more than 3,000 employees at seven other SEIU-represented hospitals across our system weeks ago. Yet, the union at Sutter Delta continues to be the one outlier, distracting from patient care instead of focusing on reaching a fair agreement on behalf of their members.

“The union talks freely about the staffing and patient care needs of the hospital, but when push comes to shove, it’s the union that is asking employees to walk out on their patients. We’ll deal with the strike, and when it’s over, we’ll be able to return our attention to resolving this.

Our proposed contract guarantees pay and benefits that are as good or better than others in the area. The current offer includes 13% salary increase over four years (3% yearly salary increases each year for three years and a 4% increase in year four) and 100% employer paid health coverage for employees and their families.”

Questions About Cancelled Mediation

Asked about their claim that Sutter Health canceled mediation, Saldaña of said, “Over the weekend there was a bargaining session with federal mediation. But that was cancelled by Sutter Delta management staff.”

Asked why Sutter Delta workers were the lone holdouts on the contract she replied, “For the workers at Sutter Delta it’s more about patient care and the workers’ safety. They’re feeling severely understaffed.”

Asked if Sutter Delta management staff canceled mediation as the union is claiming and why, a Sutter Health spokesperson responded, “both parties agreed to mediation but then the union immediately issued a strike notice. Which meant, as mentioned in our (previous) statement, we had to turn our attention from negotiating to securing qualified replacement workers to keep the hospital open and able to provide, safe, high-quality care for the community.”

Allen Payton contributed to this report.


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