Petaluma Valley Hospital workers to hold 24-hour strike

Petaluma workers are seeking pay raises to meet the rising cost of living in Sonoma County.|

Union medical technicians and other support staff at Petaluma Valley Hospital are set to participate in a 24-hour strike beginning Wednesday morning.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents between 150 and 160 workers at Petaluma Valley Hospital, said the action was a response to stalled contract talks with St. Joseph Health, which operates both Petaluma Valley and Santa Rosa Memorial hospitals.

The union said the system is offering inadequate compensation and benefits, even though the Petaluma hospital is expected to turn a profit this year. St. Joseph Health officials could not be reached Tuesday afternoon.

On its Sonoma County website, St. Joseph Health announced that some “non- emergency services may be limited” because of the one-day strike.

“We have hired highly qualified, experienced replacement workers who will ensure our patients continue to receive excellent care,” the announcement said.

The hospital notice said the “Emergency Department will be fully staffed and ready for any emergency needs. … We value our caregivers and are committed to providing a strong pay and benefits package to support them and their families.”

But Patti Barnett, an X-ray technician and member of the union bargaining team, said the hospital is falling short of that goal. Barnett said St. Joseph is trying to eliminate a health plan that allows members to seek out-of-network care.

Other “takeaways,” she said include a reduction in paid time off for medical staff who have worked for more than 10 years and annual pay raises that are not sufficient to cover the rising cost of living in Sonoma County.

“I would like to see compensations that address the issue of the increasing rents in Sonoma County, particularly after the fires,” Barnett said.

Barnett said NUHW members are also concerned about mold that was found in the summer in some of the rooms at Petaluma Valley Hospital. Discovery of the mold prompted the closure of the labor and delivery unit.

NUHW has been representing St. Joseph Health staff locally since 2016, said Barnett, adding that the most recent contract negotiations began in May.

The union represents nearly all staff at the hospital except for physicians, nurses and administration staff, union officials said. Barnett said this includes laboratory service staff; radiology, physical therapy, respiratory and pharmacy technicians; housekeeping workers and medical records staff.

NUHW staff at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital are scheduled to hold an informational picket on Wednesday in support of striking workers at Petaluma Valley Hospital.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213.

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