Healthcare Workers Object To HCA’s Demand To Strip Anti-discrimination Workplace Protections At Florida HospitalsFebruary 19, 2021
Media contact: Ed Gilhuly, 305-807-6906, firstname.lastname@example.org
MIAMI----Members of the state’s largest union of healthcare workers, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, are objecting to a contract demand by Healthcare Corporation of America (HCA) that would eliminate anti-discrimination workplace protections at hospitals across Florida.
The demand by HCA, one of the nation’s largest healthcare companies which recently reported $3.75 billion in 2020 profits, would strip existing grievance and arbitration enforcement protections for workers filing discrimination complaints based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status and more.
The proposed change would affect almost 10,000 nurses, technicians, dietary and environmental services staff, and other Florida healthcare workers while they continue to serve on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.
HCA’s demand came up during negotiations for a new contract with 1199SEIU members who work at 19 HCA hospitals throughout the state.
“So many of our frontline caregivers and members are Black, brown, immigrants or other folk who have faced systemic racism and prejudices,” said Penny Ceasar, a unit secretary at an HCA hospital in South Florida and a member of 1199SEIU. “We feel that HCA’s demand is especially offensive while other large companies today are recognizing and trying to repair the deep damage discrimination has inflicted on individuals and society. This is a big step backward.”
Delegates on the union’s bargaining committee also rejected “as insulting” HCA’s proposed wage and seniority scale for lower-paid positions such as dietary and housekeeping, which are departments largely staffed by workers from communities of color.
“HCA’s proposed hourly ‘raises’ to address wage inequities, where experienced employees were making less than new employees, are shameful and come out to just pennies more a year in many cases,” said Bob Gibson, a vice president with 1199SEIU. “That shows no respect for these hardworking healthcare heroes who, like all of us, are just trying to support their families and build better lives for their children.”
While working to care and protect patients during the historic COVIID-19 pandemic, union members also have taken issue with various HCA policies as the company rolled up multi-billion-dollar profits. These include:
•The company, which faced numerous worker protests regarding safety protocols and lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic cut funding for supplies by $112 million in 2020.
• Lack of quarantine and hazard pay.
• Staffing and turnover issues, such as losses of full-time nurses and reliance on temporary “agency” personnel.
• Requiring staff to use PTO when receiving the COVID-19 vaccine or getting sick on the job.
• Threats of cuts to staff, pay and other benefits, especially to union members.
“It’s not right to be massively profiting off of a pandemic, especially for a healthcare company,” Gibson said. “Because of all these issues, experienced and talented nurses and caregivers are leaving HCA, which can place the health of patients and our community at greater risk. HCA needs to put patient need over corporate greed.”
Ceasar said caregivers have sacrificed their own safety for the well-being and safety of their patients, but workers are exhausted and have been pushed past their limits while their employer makes billions in profits and now wants to eliminate important anti-discrimination protections.
“We’re called ‘essential’ and ‘heroes,’ but it doesn’t feel that way,” said the longtime registered nurse. “If our lives truly matter, then respect us, protect us and pay us fairly.”
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest healthcare union in the country representing more than 450,000 nurses and healthcare workers nationwide, including more than 24,000 in Florida. Our nurses, certified nursing assistants and other healthcare workers care for Florida families in hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities throughout the state.