by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES – When Ritchie was told by his boss that they were increasing his workload, he got a taste of the management’s usual scare tactic.
“You should just be happy you have a job here,” management told him. “We can replace you anytime because there are so many applicants for your position.”
Ritchie has been a patient care technician at St. Jude Medical Center for the past 12 years. He is one among scores of FilAm nurses, respiratory therapists, technicians and food workers who came together to protest this unjust labor practice and intimidation in Mission Viejo.
The hour-long, peaceful rally was organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the largest health care union in the country with 1.9M members. They protested continued violations of both National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rules and harassment by hospital management. The group has filed unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board.
Among the health facilities in question were Mission Hospital, St. Joseph Hospital and St. Jude Medical Center all in Orange County calling for improved workers’ rights and a chance to vote in an open election to unionize.
The three Orange County hospitals are under the St. Joseph Health System, a notfor-profit Catholic health care system established in 1982. Sponsored by The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, it has fourteen hospitals, three home health agencies and multiple physician groups.
For two years now, the healthcare workers, representing around 8,000 from the 3 hospitals, have been trying to organize a union but have repeatedly been beaten back by the management, headed by Catholic nuns. The campaign is also being waged in the healthcare system’s other facilities in California, Texas and New Mexico.
“The employees of the hospitals wanted free elections to determine whether they should be represented by a union, “ reported Jonathan Asmeron of the SEIU. “The management’s response to the employees’ efforts to start a union was egregious. There were intimidation, surveillance, threats of arrest and layoffs.
An example of intimidation by the management happened last March in Mission Hospital. A group of Mission Hospital off-duty workers gathered in the hospital’s cafeteria to learn more about unionizing.
“ A very large security detail surrounded the group — 10 department managers and supervisors who listened to their conversations,” Asmeron revealed. The security detail tried to browbeat and scare off the workers who were all the more convinced that they needed a union to be protect themselves.
“They were harassed and intimidated by hospital security and management,” said Julio Perez, political organizer for healthcare workers.
“We are here to shine the light on violations of our rights, to form a union and to advocate better patient care,” Gil Zamora, a shipping and delivery worker at St. Joseph Hospital told the crowd. “We have no good retirement, no benefits and no voice in the St. Joseph system.”
Ritchie’s sentiments mirror most of his co-workers’ in St Jude, 40% of whom are Filipinos. “We like working here because most of our friends are here,” Ritchie explained. “I have been here for more than 12 years and this is where I met my wife. This has become our second home. We just want to be treated better and not be at the mercy of our employers.”