As temperatures neared 90 degrees on Wednesday, dozens of hospital workers at the West Anaheim Medical Center on the corner of Beach Boulevard and Orange Avenue held an informational picket over unfair wages. For three hours, nurses, hospital technicians and other medical staff clad in red National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) shirts marched in front of their workplace.
The workers, who voted to join NUHW last June, say that their pay is far below industry standards despite West Anaheim Medical Center reporting a healthy $19 million profit last year. Many workers wages are 40 to 60 percent below other Orange County hospitals, including those also owned by Prime Healthcare Services, which operates West Anaheim Medical Center.
“It’s outrageous the kind of pay they’re making with the kind of education they have,” said Jeanine Waite, a West Anaheim Medical Center worker of nine years. “All we’re asking is to pay us what you’re paying the other hospitals, and they’re refusing. They’re offering new hires more than what I’m making now at nine years.”
Tony Napoli walked the picket line and said he had to move out of OC because his pay did not keep up with skyrocketing housing costs. He now commutes an hour both ways to get to and from work. The hospital worker adds that he and many of his colleagues work multiple jobs to make ends meet. “I’m getting ready to start driving for Uber,” he said. Napoli believes that higher wages will not just benefit the workers, but the patients as well. “Patient care should be the bottom line, the bottom line shouldn’t be the bottom line,” he said. “If we’re happier workers, we give better care. All our energy goes to that, rather than worrying about our bills.”
Many came to show solidarity with the picketing hospital workers, including, among others, representatives from California Nurses Association, Unite Here Local 11, UFCW Local 324, OC Labor Federation, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, and Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD). “It’s ironic that people who are taking care of others are not being taken care of by the very organization that claims to serve people in the healthcare business,” said Shakeel Syed, executive director of OCCORD.
Prime Healthcare states in a press release that they are “committed to bargaining in good faith with NUHW leadership,” with a goal of moving forward “together as a united team continuing to make West Anaheim Medical Center the best place for quality and compassionate patient care and a great place to work.”
Anaheim councilman Jose F. Moreno said that he was “excited” to see workers picketing so that their voices may be heard. “At the end of the day their job is to provide quality healthcare,” Moreno explained to the Weekly. “You have to make sure that the employees that you have under your watch are compensated fairly so we know that we have folks that aren’t having to work a second or third job so that they can focus on the job of providing healthcare to their residents and citizens.”