On the Picket Line

Sequoia hospital workers forge unity, make gains in strike

By Betsey Stone
August 22, 2022

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — After almost two weeks on the picket line, 300 striking workers at Sequoia Hospital here are back at work after pushing back an insulting contract offer from Dignity Health bosses. Strikers included nurses’ assistants, surgical technicians, respiratory therapists, housekeepers and cooks, all members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union Local 829. Dignity is the fifth largest U.S. hospital chain.

The new contract includes a 16% raise over four years and a 2% signing bonus, well above the bosses’ original offer. A provision that would have allowed the hospital to raise employee insurance premiums at a moment’s notice was defeated. The hospital also agreed to hire more certified nursing assistants, one of the strikers’ key demands.

Housekeeper Norma Godoy, a regular on the picket line, told the Militant, “It won’t keep up with inflation, but by being out there we won more.”

Workers said the company’s threat to cut off health insurance if they didn’t return to work before August was a factor in their decision to end the strike. Of the 185 who voted July 29, 100% voted yes.

“We had a good turnout on the picket line,” housekeeper Vicky Harper said. “We got a lot of support from nurses, engineers and other hospital employees.”

Ana Muir, a record-keeper, said that when she worked at the hospital in the 1980s nursing assistants usually cared for about six patients at a time. Now it can be up to 20. Night nursing assistants have had as many as 30 patients.

“This is unsafe for us as well as the patients,” Joe Paloma, a certified nursing assistant, told the Militant on the picket line July 17. He said it was the first time they’ve ever been on strike.