MemorialCare medical workers in Long Beach stave off reduced hours

It is unclear if hospital leadership is still considering furloughs and layoffs amid contract negotiations.

MemorialCare medical workers in Long Beach stave off reduced hours
Long Beach Memorial Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Medical staff at Long Beach Memorial and Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital voted to maintain longer shifts after hospital leadership threatened to slash hours amid ongoing labor negotiations.

Ahead of contract negotiations, hospital leadership last month said they would be forced to cut hours and possibly move forward with furloughs and layoffs for a “substantial number of employees,” including nursing assistants, anesthesia technicians, scrub techs and others, according to an April 3 memo.

United Steelworkers Local 2801, which represents more than 50,000 health care workers, including hundreds in Long Beach, pushed back, calling for a vote by staff to maintain the current schedules, which they say are better for both workers and patients. Workers voted at the hospital from May 16-21 and approved the initiative “overwhelmingly,” according to the union.

“Our members did not back down when the hospital threatened to change the schedules of nearly 600 healthcare workers if we did not agree to make significant concessions months before our contract expired,” USW District 12 Director Gaylan Prescott said in an email Thursday.

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

Reduced schedules were slated to begin May 26, according to the internal memo.

Hospital officials accused the union of delaying contract negotiations, saying they offered bargaining dates as early as mid-February only to have the union push them off until mid-May. The union, meanwhile, claims it offered dates in April.

The current contract expires June 30 and two parties met for the first time the week of May 6.

Hospital officials have not explained why they determined schedule reductions, furloughs or layoffs would be necessary. It’s unclear if furloughs and layoffs are still a consideration.

“We are pleased with the results and that the employees voted in the schedules they want,” hospital spokesperson Richele Steele said in an email Thursday.

Prior to the vote, the union stated that reducing 12- and 10-hour shifts to eight hours would be detrimental to employees’ work-life balance—which would lead to more staff burnout—as well as patient care due to more frequent shift changes.

“Together, we successfully resisted the hospital’s threats,” Prescott said. “We preserved our work schedules without sacrificing the benefits we bargained for in our contract.

“We will continue to rely upon the solidarity of our members in the coming weeks as we work to secure a new contract that ensures that Long Beach Memorial Medical Center treats our essential healthcare workers fairly and with dignity while providing the benefits they’ve earned.”

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