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Long Beach hospital workers face reduced hours, furloughs and layoffs amid labor negotiations, memo says

It’s unclear why hospital management determined the measures are necessary more than a month before the old contract expired. Plus, more headlines you may have missed.

Long Beach hospital workers face reduced hours, furloughs and layoffs amid labor negotiations, memo says
Long Beach Medical Center Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Medical workers at Long Beach Memorial and Miller Children's & Women's Hospital could see reduced hours, furloughs and layoffs later this month as their union and hospital management begin contract negotiations, according to internal memos obtained by the Watchdog.

In an April 3 memo posted inside the hospital, management accused United Steelworkers Local 2801, which represents more than 50,000 health care workers, of delaying the start of contract negotiations.

“Unfortunately, despite our efforts to start meeting by mid-February, the Union has delayed starting negotiations until mid-May and only agreed to meet for a total of nine sessions,” the memo reads, adding that past negotiations have taken between 20 and 30 sessions.

In response, hospital management announced that it would adjust staffing levels and scheduling, cutting 10- and 12-hour shifts to standard eight-hour shifts across the board beginning May 26, more than a month before the old contract is set to expire on June 30. The hospital will also consider furloughs and layoffs of a “substantial number of employees,” according to the memo.

In other recent contract negotiations in the area, including for workers at the Hotel Maya and longshoremen at the ports, previous contracts were honored — even after expiration — until a new agreement was reached.


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Memorial officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment as to why management apparently determined the reduction in hours, furloughs and layoffs would be necessary.

“Hospital management, through their third-party attorney Adam Abrahms, demanded the union waive certain protective contract provisions or face layoffs and shift changes at the hands of hospital leadership as a consequence,” USW District 12 Director Gaylan Prescott said in a May 15 email to the Watchdog.

Prescott rebuffed the accusation that the union delayed negotiations until this May, saying it had offered time in April. The two parties met for the first time last week, he added.

In an open letter, the USW protested the hospital’s decision to shorten shifts, saying the move would be detrimental to workers and patients alike. The established longer shifts allow for “better work-life balance, reduced commuting costs and time, and maximized productivity during extended shifts,” the union said.

“Eliminating these options would disrupt the established routines and lifestyles of numerous employees, leading to increased stress, dissatisfaction, and at the extreme, losing experienced employees,” the letter states, noting that as it is 46% of health workers report feeling burned out.

The alternate schedules have been beneficial to patient care and employee morale, the union argues, stating the longer shifts promote continuity of care by reducing the number of staff managing care in a given day.

“By forcing all employees into a rigid eight-hour schedule, the proposed change risks undermining these advantages,” the letter reads.

In the memo posted at the hospital, management claimed to have presented a temporary agreement to the union on Feb. 20, which would have maintained the current scheduling. The proposal, however, was “rejected” by the union, according to Memorial.

In an April 4 letter to the union, the hospital’s labor attorney confirmed Memorial’s intention to move forward with the hour reductions and outlined how the plan is “legal and compliant” with the existing collective bargaining agreement.

During an April 16 phone call, the lawyer stated the hospital was moving forward with its plan, according to an April 17 memo. During the call, a union representative spoke of employee concerns over the changes, the memo states, adding that the union agreed to three more bargaining dates in June.

In the end, the hospital and union set up an election to allow all affected employees to vote on an alternative workweek schedule, according to an April 29 memo. If two-thirds of all full-time, part-time and per diem staff approve of the schedule, current schedules and overtime structure will remain. If it is not adopted, the transition to eight-hour shifts will move forward.

The vote is slated to take place May 16 to 21.

The labor dispute comes just a few months after Memorial laid off 72 workers and eliminated 19 vacant positions. At the time, hospital management said the move, which included the closure of its outpatient pharmacy, was part of a restructuring to make operations more efficient.

But employees voiced concerns that the loss of workers and their institutional knowledge would be detrimental for patients and the remaining workforce.

“The union stands ready to negotiate with Long Beach leadership,” Prescott said. “But threats and punishing shift schedules only frustrate the process.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that medical workers, such as scrub techs, nursing assistants and anesthesia techs, will be affected. Nurses hours will not be be affected.


Brandon Richardson was laid off by the Long Beach Post on March 22. Thank him for continuing to cover Long Beach without pay.


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