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"Hospital workers prepare to strike"

Original source:

San Mateo County Times

Union cites unfair labor practices in complaint against Millbrae convalescent hospital

By Christine Morente, STAFF WRITER
Article Created: 02/21/2008 02:34:57 AM PST

MILLBRAE — Caregivers at the Emmanuel Convalescent Hospital are preparing to strike Friday over alleged violations of federal labor laws.

The strike will begin at 6 a.m. and last 24 hours, said Mason Stockstill of United Healthcare Workers-West's Service Employees International Union.

"We want to show them that the workers are united, and the community is united behind these workers," Stockstill said. "We aren't going to sit idly by while the employers are violating the contract and pretending it doesn't exist. The union is not going away."

The union represents 87 caregivers at Emmanuel. According to the employees, the owners — Amparo and Carlos Ragudo of A&C Health Care Services — fired eight union activists without just cause.

The Ragudos have denied the allegations and claim the workers were fired for just cause.

The union is also upset that the Ragudos reduced caregivers' health, retirement and paid time-off benefits. Now, employees must pay 50 percent of the cost of monthly health insurance premiums.

Charges of unfair labor practices have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board, which will decide if the accusations have merit, Stockstill said.

In August, the Ragudos bought the 140-bed nursing home, including four other convalescent homes and assisted-living facilities from the now-bankrupt Pleasant Care Corporation.

According to the union, the owners of Pleasant Care had to pay a $1 million fine after the state attorney general foundthem guilty of elder abuse and criminally negligent care.

Amparo Ragudo said the employees who were fired were let go because of poor performance.

One was found sleeping on the job; another was let go after the resident and family members leveled multiple allegations of elder abuse; and a third had a history of violating a resident's rights, Amparo Ragudo said.

"We comply with the Department of Labor," she said. "It's for the residents' welfare."

Amparo Ragudo added that Pleasant Care Corp. never signed the workers' contract, making any policies under the old ownership void, since the facility was bought in bankruptcy court.

During the strike, caregivers from other local nursing homes will work at Emmanuel and look after its 120 residents, whose family members have been notified of the strike.

Doris Ramos, a caregiver at Emmanuel, said she's never seen abuse or anyone sleeping on the job. She's been at the Mateo Avenue location for 21 years.

"People work hard in this place," Ramos said.

Ramos said she will strike to get her benefits reinstated. She hasn't had insurance for six months.

Millbrae Mayor Gina Papan said she will join the striking workers Friday afternoon. In a statement released Wednesday, she said what A&C Health Care has done is "unacceptable behavior."

"I am deeply offended by the notion that wages and benefits for those who care for the elderly and disabled are being slashed," she said. "These employees have a contract and deserve to be dealt with fairly and honestly."