Cedars-Sinai workers protested Wednesday after the hospital was given seven health and safety violations that workers said were “defenceless” amid the pandemic.
The protest was led by the Service Employees International Union- United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) with employees chanting and holding signs reading “Cedars: Invest in your workers” and “staffing=safety”.
The $97,700 in citations were awarded by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), many of which were related to COVID-19 and deemed “serious.”
Cedars disputed each violation, with Cal/OSHA noting that the citations have not been closed and violations can still be added or removed.
Among the citations, Cedars would not have reported when employees had contracted COVID-19, some of which had died from the disease while being treated in hospital.
“It’s outrageous that Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has left some of its employees defenseless against COVID-19 while we worked together to care for patients,” said Taryne Mosley, a surgical technician at Cedars-Sinai. “We want our employer to protect healthcare workers from harm in the first place, not just after people have died. The public should know that Cedars-Sinai is endangering patients and workers by failing to comply with basic health and safety laws.”
Cedars-Sinai employee Willie Gladney told LA Weekly that vulnerable workers such as pregnant women and older workers with pre-existing conditions were regularly scheduled to work on floors with COVID-19 patients.
Gladney recalled a case where a 65-year-old colleague may have contracted COVID-19 in Cedars-Sinai and infected her husband.
“There is a woman who contracted COVID while she was at work and she went home and her husband got COVID and eventually died of COVID,” Gladney said. “This floor was designated as a COVID floor, that woman should never have been allowed to go on that floor.”
While it’s difficult to determine where a person contracted the virus, one of the COVID-19-related violations the hospital received was that it “failed” to limit the exposure of staff and nurses in a cafeteria to a to a minimum.
The contract for more than 2,000 Cedars-Sinai employees, represented by the SEIU-UWH, expired on March 31. On April 11, health workers voted not only because of safety concerns, but also because of lack of staff and wage negotiations.
“On the first day of negotiations, March 21, Cedars-Sinai presented the union with a strong economic proposal, which would have brought pay increases for the workers of the negotiating unit as early as March 27,” Cedars-Sinai said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the union declined our offer — without asking for the 2,000 members, who make up 13% of Cedars-Sinai’s workforce.”