Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital employees gather regarding union representation
August 15, 2018
A number of staff members from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital gathered Wednesday at Condon Park in an attempt to raise awareness and garner support for their claim that they haven't been treated as well as their peers in the Sacramento area.
The Grass Valley hospital is considered part of Dignity Health's Greater Sacramento group of medical centers.
"We're just having a rally in support of the fact that we want equal pay with our fellow employees who are down in the Sacramento valley," said Randy Petrash, an emergency room technician who has been with Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital for over 30 years. "We feel that it behooves us to be able to be a part of the same Dignity system and equal pay."
Those gathered on Wednesday cited an article published by the Sacramento Bee on March 21, describing the roughly 15,000 members of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, who ratified a five-year contract with Dignity that will increase pay by 13 percent over the term of the deal.
The problem, workers from the hospital collectively agreed, is they are represented by Teamsters Local 150 and their union rep, Maria Carroll, has been unresponsive to their concerns. They say they have not received the same treatment as those who are represented in Sacramento.
Carroll said in an email the union is well aware of the wage issues and concerns held by some of its members, and their concerns are being addressed with management in contract negotiations.
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"In addition to holding several meetings with the employees on these issues, the union arranged for over 10 different groups of employees to present wage issues to the hospital directly at the bargaining table," Carroll wrote.
"The union negotiating committee has been working diligently since May of this year to get a contract that will address all of our members' concerns and compensate the employees fairly and equitably. Because the issues that are currently (being) discussed during bargaining have not reached a tentative agreement, we have a second update scheduled for Aug. 24 to continue to keep the employees informed."
Petrash said that the best case scenario would be that they receive pay equal to their colleagues in Sacramento for doing what he said are the same jobs.
What would happen if their demands aren't met?
"I can't answer that," said Petrash.
Kim Keane has been a phlebotomist with Sierra Nevada Memorial for 10 years. She loves her job and loves where she lives, she said. However she said that without pay equal to her counterparts in the valley, it can be hard to meet the cost of living.
"We're trying to get the union to work for us," said Keane. "They haven't done a lot for us in the 10 years I have been here. Supposedly there are negotiations going on that they're not including us in so we have no clue what's been negotiated, let alone if they're working for what we have requested."
Keane and others at Wednesday's rally said their most recent contract ended on June 30 and an extension to that contract was signed without their input.
"We're paying dues every year for this, we would like to get something for our money," Keane added. "All this money goes toward our union but we aren't getting union support."
Sue Cooper, a nurses aid, said she is frustrated that the nurses whom she assists are not Teamster and therefore don't share the same concerns as those in ambulance, lab and technician positions.
"We are in the trenches," said Cooper. "I've been here 31 years. I am by myself on the floor with almost 20 patients and no one is helping me. If that's the way it's gonna be, give me more money."
Nora Petrash, a 16-year employee with Sierra Nevada Memorial and wife of Randy, said they have gathered enough signatures to end the contract with the Teamsters and file it with the National Labor Relations Board, but doing so could result in being without any representation for a year.
Wednesday's rally was held not only to draw attention to the group's complaints, but to gather signatures of other employees who support their mission to oust their current union representation or at least have more reliable representation.
None of the attendees of the rally were abandoning work shifts; all were participating on their personal time.
The Union reached out to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. The hospital forwarded questions to Dignity Health, which had not provided a response as of press time.
Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4231.