Daily Archives: April 10, 2008

Hospital Workers Stage Strike in OC

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.”


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H1-B Cap Reached in a Day

By Maria Sunantha Quibilan/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Tuesday that the congressionally mandated cap of 65,000 for H1-B petitions has been reached for fiscal year 2009 (October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009).

In addition, the 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of persons exempt from the cap under the “advanced degree” exemption has also been met.

This means that USCIS will carry out a lottery or a “computer-generated random selection process” to determine which applications will be considered among the too many that were received for the visa program for skilled professionals.

On announcing that the quota had been met, the USCIS did not state the number of applications it had received for the 2009 fiscal year. It also did not announce the exact date on which it will conduct the random selection process, saying that the agency is unable to do so “due to the high number of petitions.”

The deadline for the filing of H1-B applications was Monday, April 7th. This is the second year in a row that the cap had been met in one day.

US business leaders have criticized the cap as too low and that it limits their ability to hire the highly educated workers that they need. They have urged Congress to increase the quotas, arguing that the country needs to bring in talent from abroad in order to remain competitive.

Big tech companies, for instance, like Microsoft and Oracle maintain that they have thousands of jobs available but cannot find qualified US applicants. According to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, the current cap on H1-B visas is far too low for the rapidly growing tech industry.

“Congress has failed to address the problem as US universities graduate highly educated individuals who leave to work in competitor nations,” said Robert Hoffman, Oracle executive and co-chair of Compete America, an organization that supports easier immigration laws.

On the other hand, critics of the H1-B program point out that overseas companies exploit the loopholes of the program in order to send their nationals to the US and pay them low wages, thus depriving Americans of employment.

“We can’t let powerful outside interests cloud our view of the harsh reality that highly skilled Americans are being passed over for jobs for cheaper, foreign labor,” Senator Charles Grassley said in a statement last week.

The H1-B visa program, which was launched in 1990, allows foreign workers in “specialty occupations” such as the arts, sciences and education, to be employed for up to six years, after which they must obtain permanent residency or return home. A large number of H1-B visa holders come from Asia. Across all recipients of new H-1B visas in fiscal year 2006, 54 percent were citizens of India, Korea and the Philippines.


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