Workers at nine Hillhaven Corp. nursing homes in California carried out a one-day strike Sept. 18 to call attention to patient care and to their demands for a new contract.
The strike by Local 250 of the Health Care Workers Union involved about 600 workers at nursing homes on the west side of San Francisco Bay.
The previously announced strike Labor
was the culmination of a long campaign by the union, a unit of the Service Employees International Union, to draw public attention to nursing home practices it says may harm patients.
The union's contract with 25 California nursing homes expired Sept. 15.
Dennis Hunt, a spokesman for Tacoma, Wash.-based Hillhaven, said the company had recruited replacement workers to take care of patients, and no disruption of care occurred. The temporary replacements were licensed registered or vocational nurses, he said.
Sal Rosselli, Local 250 president, accused HMOs and for-profit nursing homes of developing the category of "subacute care" to force acutely ill people out of hospitals prematurely, into nursing homes, to save insurance companies and HMOs money.
He said the labor action was necessary to alert the public that "no matter what kind of insurance they have, they could be forced into a nursing home while acutely ill. We're talking about people a day after bypass surgery, AIDS patients, stroke victims, post-operative cancer patients."
Hillhaven, he said, has moved subacute patients into nursing homes without hiring extra staff or training its employees.
Rosselli said the average Local 250 member earns $6.40 an hour at Hillhaven homes. The union has asked for a 16% pay increase but has put the financial issues aside for the time being.
Hillhaven, which operates about 330 nursing homes, said the union's motives are to gain membership, money and political power, not to improve patient care. "Our staffing levels exceed the minimum required by the state," Hunt said.