[July 1, 2013] LONG BEACH, CA – Healthcare workers at a mental health facility in Long Beach will end their five-day strike at 4 p.m. today and return to their jobs, after successfully raising awareness about the company’s unfair labor practices, such as refusing to bargain in good faith about protecting workers, patients, and community residents.
“This strike succeeded in letting the community know how out of control La Casa is, and how unwilling the company is to bargain in good faith and protect the safety of patients, employees, and the public,” said Luz Flores, a Mental Health Worker at La Casa Mental Health Rehabilitation Center. “We are more determined than ever to press management to return to the bargaining table and do what’s right, because no employee should have to risk being punched, kicked, or slammed into the ground while working.”
During the strike, workers received statewide support from federal, state, county, and local elected officials who are concerned about conditions at the Long Beach facility. Area officials who urged La Casa to resolve the strike included U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn (D – San Pedro); Senator Ricardo Lara (D – Bell Gardens); Assemblymembers Bonnie Lowenthal (D – Long Beach) and Anthony Rendon (D – Lakewood); and Long Beach City Councilmembers Steve Neal and Patrick O’Donnell.
The La Casa Mental Health Rehabilitation Center has drawn criticism for its lax safety measures that contribute to patients escaping regularly, and employees being injured after violent altercations with patients. During a three-year period ending March 2013, the Long Beach Police Department responded to more than 230 calls at the facility – nearly two a week – and in May one patient escaped and later died the same day at a nearby hospital.
“We’re grateful to the community for its support during the strike, which grew stronger after they learned more about what’s happening at La Casa,” said Neilanie Besana, a Licensed Vocational Nurse at the facility. “The company needs to change its ways, and if it refuses we’ll look at other actions that will convince management to return to the bargaining table and be ready to bargain.”
La Casa officials have refused to bargain in good faith on a range of issues, including an effort by employees to improve training and safety measures, such as hiring an onsite security officer and erecting a Plexiglas barrier around the nursing station. In April 2013, one worker ended up in the emergency room after being knocked unconscious by a patient. Her injuries were so severe that she has not returned to work and is on disability.
Workers have also called on the County of Los Angeles to intervene and hold La Casa accountable for the large amount of taxpayer dollars it receives. The county has paid the facility more than $54 million to provide patient care since 2010, and government jurisdictions throughout California have paid the company at least $384 million over the last ten years.
La Casa is owned by Telecare Corporation, an Alameda, California-based private company which has more than 2,200 employees in six states, and reported net patient revenue of $186 million in 2011.