On Wednesday, May 26, 2021, Samaritan hospital workers who are members of SEIU 49 and currently in bargaining held an informational picket outside Samaritan Albany General Hospital to demand quality patient care and good jobs.
Members held picket signs, chanted and marched in front of the hospital demanding respect for their sacrifices and commitment to patients during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Samaritan Health System has not made any changes to the pay or paid time off for these critical workers over the last year. Housekeepers, Certified Nursing Assistants, Emergency Department techs and others at the picket today were feeling burned out as they have been under intense pressure throughout the pandemic. Unlike many other health systems, Samaritan has refused any additional paid time off for COVID 19 exposures, provided no childcare assistance, and offered no additional financial incentives to the lowest wage earners in their system.
“Having COVID protections is crucial to keep our community safe and our ability to provide quality patient care during this deadly pandemic. We have had no COVID protections this past year,” says Emery Clark-Dean CNA2, Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center. “Our commitment to keep the community safe during this pandemic should be recognized with paid leave due to COVID.”
Workers like Dafne DeSautel, a CNA2 at Good Sam, came out to the picket line to express her concerns regarding Samaritan’s attempts to raise healthcare costs at the same time their wages are falling behind in the market.
“It hurts and makes me angry that management doesn’t seem to care about essential workers and that I have to fight for living wages. We deserve good jobs where pay is comparable across the Samaritan system and healthcare is affordable,” says Dafne DeSautel.
Over the last year the Samaritan system raked in more than $65 million in total profits in 2020*, including a more than ten-fold increase in its hospital operating profits**. Workers cite a comparison on starting wages as an example of wage inequities that they want addressed. For example, at Albany General Hospital a CNA2 starting wage is only $15.44 compared to working at the Avamere nursing homes where the starting wage for a CNA2 is $20.15.
Samaritan frontline healthcare workers are united in their message to management that by investing in good jobs with fair wages, affordable health care, and quality staffing, Samaritan becomes competitive in the area’s job market and supports quality patient care our community relies on.
“I want to work where things are fair to my coworkers and me. I advocate for myself and feel it’s my duty to advocate for my coworkers,” says Chandra Ferrell, Obstetrics Technician, Albany General Hospital. “Patient safety is the issue here; our proposals are reasonable and can have a positive impact on our patients and staff.”
Workers will continue to work and plan on meeting for several more bargaining sessions to hammer out a fair contract. But many hope that today’s strong showing at the informational picket sent a clear message to management that things at Samaritan have to change.