Caregivers hold vigil for patient care

Members of the National Union Healthcare Workers, nurses of the California Nurses Association and employees of the Keck Medical Center of USC protested USC administration’s lack of contractual negotiations at a candlelight vigil for patient care Wednesday night outside the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Tension between the administration and caregivers began in August 2010, when employees asked management to stop short-staffing because of its negative affect on the hospital, according to an NUHW press release. Caregivers took further action when contractual changes were not made.

NUHW hosted a strike Oct. 12 protesting the administration for limited employee benefits and a proposed one-year wage freeze, said Leighton Woodhouse, director of communications for NUHW.

Alex Corea, a respiratory therapist at Keck Medical Center of USC and member of NUHW, said the candlelight vigil is meant to send a different message to the administration than the October strike.

“After the strike, which was pretty chaotic, we’re trying to tell the management that we are willing to talk in a peaceful manner,” Corea said. “Everybody is trying to keep the faith.”

USC administration responded to the one-day protest by suspending “four workers for frivolous reasons related to their participation and organizing around the Unfair Labor Practice strike,” according to an NUHW press release.

Registered nurses of the CNA joined NUHW’s cause when the hospital administration reneged on a previous agreement to provide family tuition assistance benefits and retirement plans.

NUHW filed charges of unfair conduct against the Keck Medical Center of USC in October, which the National Labor Board supported by issuing further complaints. The hearing began on Oct. 24 and the trial is still ongoing.

“Essentially, they will have to undo what they have done; if employees have been wronged, they must be made whole,” John Borsos, vice president of NUHW, told the Daily Trojan in October. “They must let employees know that they had acted in bad faith and they will have to compensate people for anything they have lost.”

Update: In response to the candlelight vigil and allegations from the NUHW, the Keck Hospital of USC issued the following statement: “From the start we have bargained in good faith,” Keck Hospital CEO Mitch Creem said in a press release. “We believe the proposals we have made to the National Union of Healthcare Workers are more than fair. We strongly deny the allegations that the union has made.”