Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital workers protest potential layoffs

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About 80 Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital unionized employees and their supporters carried signs and shouted slogans Friday in front of the hospital, protesting the potential layoff of several dozen medical technicians, including nursing assistants who provide bedside care for patients.

Striding the sidewalk on Brookwood Avenue, the protesters — some wearing teal or blue hospital scrubs — carried signs that read “Patients Before Profits” and “Save Our Jobs.”

Art Hernandez, a 68-year-old orthopedic technician, said Friday was his last day on the job after 16 years at Memorial, making him the only worker laid off so far.

“It sucks,” said Hernandez, who previously worked 14 years at the old Community Hospital on Chanate Road. “It’s about money.”

Addressing the picketers, Jack Buckhorn, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council, said, “This is a classic example of greed taking the place of workers.”

The National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents 800 caregivers at the hospital, contend that St. Joseph Health made $55 million in profit last year.

St. Joseph Health, which operates Memorial Hospital and 62 other Sonoma County facilities, had $53 million in operating revenue last year, all of it returned to the nonprofit organization, said Vanessa deGier, a St. Joseph Health spokeswoman.

The hospital was legally obliged to issue layoff notices to 45 medical technicians last month, and has since begun negotiations with the union on “scope of work” options to avert layoffs, deGier said. Among the options is changing the shift for nursing assistants from eight to 10 hours.

Fewer than 40 workers now face potential layoffs, including 34 union members, deGier said.

The union said Memorial proposed a schedule change that would have averted layoffs but amounted to a 10 to 18 percent pay cut and a 10 percent reduction in staff time to care for patients.

Mito Gonzales, an outpatient lab technician who’s worked 23 years at Memorial, said he had been through layoffs in the past that were necessary.

“But this is different,” he told the fellow demonstrators. “We have people who are losing their homes,” he said referring to a couple who work at Memorial.

“This is not OK,” Gonzales said.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @guykovner.

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