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UC health care workers stage 1-day walkout

UC health care workers held a one-day walkout to protest staffing problems and alleged harassment issues.
November 20, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Thousands of University of California health care employees took part in a one-day walkout Wednesday. While workers say they're protesting staffing problems and what they are calling harassment issues, UC administration says it's really all about money.

No matter the reason, close to 100 procedures across the state, including a kidney transplant, were expected to be delayed because of the walkout, the administration said. One woman, who did not want to be identified, said her son's surgery was delayed.

"It's already been 11 days since the accident, and every day that goes by, his legs are not fixed and could heal worse," she said.

It's the second time this year UC hospital workers walked off the job. About 100 workers at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center began picketing at 6 a.m. Employees at hospitals across the state also took part.

Employees say the staff isn't big enough to accommodate all patients. Kathryn Lybarger with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) says staffing is down at UC hospitals and campuses. According to Lybarger, they have seen over $1.5 million in fines in the last five years from government watchdogs for slips in patient care and a patient death at UCSD.

"There's a high cost to patients when there is not enough staffing," said Lybarger.

Lybarger also says employees have faced what they call harassment issues since staging a two-day walkout in May.

"They pulled our members to see if they were going to be going on strike, they cornered members, they threatened members with discipline or even firing," said Lybarger.

Hospital officials insist they are fully staffed for emergencies, and the real issue for workers is not how many people are on the job, but how much they get paid to do it.

"It's a money thing. Our hope is people who are responsible for patients and again to the public is that the union will sit at the negotiating table. No issues, either staffing or money, are going to be resolved in the streets," said Dr. Thomas Rosenthal of UCLA Medical Center.

Lybarger maintains that money is not the issue.

"It might be about money for them, they've been talking about pension. We're talking about patient care, and they've been tone deaf to that, tone deaf to safety," Lybarger said. "The purpose for today's strike is that our members have to be able to advocate for the people we serve."

After originally planning to take part, nurses came to an agreement with UC administrators and opted out of Wednesday's walkout.


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