NEWS: 14,000 Workers Start Contract Negotiations at Dignity Health with a New Approach

SEIU-UHW Members Ask Hospital Chain to Join with them to Focus on Improving Health for All Californians, Reducing Chronic Illness

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Press Contacts: Elizabeth Brennan at 213-999-2164

LOS ANGELES – 14,000 healthcare workers at 31 facilities owned by Dignity Health started contract negotiations today with a focus on improving healthcare in California.

“We aim to take a totally different approach this year,” said Marsha Richardson, a patient care technician at California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles. “We are focused on improving health in California – for healthcare workers and our patients. We will make innovative bargaining proposals to lower healthcare costs and provide incentives for good health.”

Alarming increases in the incidence of manageable and preventable chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, asthma, depression, hypertension and heart disease – along with rising healthcare costs – led workers, who are members of SEIU United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), to commit to a platform called “Let’s Get Healthy California!” that will provide the backdrop for contract negotiations with Dignity Health and other healthcare systems.

Caregivers asked Dignity Health to join with them to call on Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature to make it the policy of the state to reduce chronic diseases. Healthcare workers will next ask Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, Daughters of Charity Health Systems and leading advocacy organizations to join with them.

“We have a unique opportunity during contract negotiations to not only improve healthcare jobs, but take real steps to begin creating a California where people live longer, healthier lives and we get healthcare costs under control,” said Bob Lewis, a patient transporter at St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco.

SEIU-UHW members are also committed to building a team of 10,000 healthcare providers to launch a massive education program in the state focused on wellness, preventive care and to help prepare for the increasing healthcare demands of an aging population.

During contract negotiations, union members will prioritize concrete proposals such as wellness programs to improve the health of workers in their hospitals and lower costs, and a joint community outreach program designed to take on the problem of chronic conditions that drive a majority of healthcare costs in the state.

In 2012, more than 100,000 SEIU-UHW members in California will negotiate new union contracts. Under the banner of “Let’s Get Healthy California!” healthcare workers will negotiate contracts, introduce legislation and work with partner organizations to improve the quality of healthcare, lower healthcare costs and improve healthcare jobs.

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