Stanford Health Cuts Frontline Healthcare Workers’ Pay 20% in Midst of Coronavirus Pandemic

Stanford Health Cuts Frontline Healthcare Workers’ Pay 20% in Midst of Coronavirus Pandemic

[4-27-20] PALO ALTO, Calif. – Stanford Health Care abruptly announced late last week that it is cutting employees’ pay 20 percent over the next 10 weeks, despite the fact that frontline healthcare workers have tirelessly treated COVID-19 patients, putting their own health at risk.

“We have been putting our lives on the line treating COVID-19 patients and Stanford Health is thanking us by cutting our pay and harming our families,” said Chuck Fonseca, a nursing assistant. “We had no warning that this was coming and there was no discussion. They just sent us an email out of the blue – and most of us are in shock that they would treat us this way.”

Stanford Health Care is requiring its employees to take 12 furlough days over a 10-week period, which amounts to a 20 percent pay cut during that time, euphemistically calling the move a  “shared sacrifice.” Many of the workers affected by the cut make between $55,000 and $65,000 a year, and the pay reduction will make it difficult for them to pay their rent, buy groceries and take care of their families.

“There is no logical reason for Stanford Health to do this to their lower-paid workers who struggle to get by as it is, let alone take a 20 percent pay cut,” said Linda Cornell, a unit secretary. “It’s a total betrayal, and for most workers it’s an eye-opener that shows how little management values those of us on the front lines of this pandemic.”

In an open letter to the leadership of Stanford Health Care, workers are asking Stanford to:

  • Tier its approach to furloughs, exempting the lowest paid employees to substantially reduce the burden on anyone earning less than $100,000 a year.
  • Ensure that no healthcare workers lose, or pay more for, health benefits in the middle of a pandemic as a result of this furlough plan.
  • Accept voluntary furlough days from those who truly don’t want to work under the current conditions and use those voluntary days to offset mandatory burdens on the rest of the workers.
  • Stop all use of registry employees in any classification or department that is experiencing furloughs.
  • Provide transparency for the reasoning behind the furloughs, including how much the hospitals are actually losing as a result of COVID-19 and how much Stanford Health Care will benefit from the $175 billion in federal stimulus funds included in the CARES Act relief legislation and its recent supplement.

Stanford employees said the furloughs have a different impact on front-line workers making $60,000 a year, than they do on the CEO, who makes more than $3 million. A 20 percent cut for the CEO over 10 weeks would mean he’d have to live on just $2.86 million this year, assuming he is not made whole with a bonus at the end of the year, which executives get but not frontline staff. In 2018, the CEO got a bonus of $768,000.

The workers also pointed out that if the CEO took a temporary cut in salary to $2 million, it would be enough to avoid furloughs for a large majority of the health system’s housekeepers. And if the chief operating officer, who made $2 million in 2018, took a temporary $350,000 pay cut, he could stop the 12 days of furloughs for all 131 lab assistants.

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SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is one of the largest unions of hospital workers in the United States, with 97,000 members. Learn more at