By Daniel Lichtenstein-Boris
The members of UE Local 1004 who work for Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Valencia, CA participated in a one-day unfair labor practice strike on March 20th, 2003, on the spring equinox.
Local 1004 is currently in negotiations with Henry Mayo for a new collective bargaining agreement covering 700 employees, including patient care attendants, techs, and other support staff.
I arrived in the evening after work to join the picket line. A young Latino man with a red hoodie and blue jeans exchanged numbers with a Chicana female coworker sitting cross legged on the sidewalk. The two coworkers were play-fighting. She slapped his thigh after he teased her. He started eating a bag of chips. She asked for help getting up and he reached out to hold her hand. “Give me chips,” She demanded. “Alright,” he responded, as he ate a few more, reaching into the bag until there were almost none left.
Homemade sign in neon green read, “We don’t want your praise we want a raise.” Other homemade signs displayed slogans like “It’s not about greed it’s about need,” We’re worth more than a pizza party,” “I am asking for a living wage once again,” and “I don’t want to strike but I will.”
Fifteen workers stood and mingled on the sidewalk outside the hospital. Small groups of coworkers would leave, and others would arrive to replace them every half hour. There were two hundred fifty to three hundred picketing in the morning. The striking workers were a diverse group, male and female, black, brown, and white. A Latina striker had been unit secretary in the OR for 8 years. “You see a lot of traumas,” she recounted. A young, petit white woman held a sign in one hand and the leash of her dog in the other. She has been a PCA, a patient care attendant, in med-surg for the past six months. “It’s a mess,” she explained. “There is so much understaffing. People keep leaving. I’ve already trained two people.” She wants to become a nurse, and to move to the ICU where people say it isn’t as bad.
A black woman in scrubs and her colleague work in psyche. She’s worked 20 years in behavioral health. This is an “unfair labor practices strike,” she mentioned, careful not to say it is about wages. The other chimed in. “We need more money. Unfair wages is an unfair labor practice.” A tall, blond, white man was on the picket line from 10 am to 2 pm, but then came back. “We definitely sent a message,” he smiled.
The strikers chanted “No contact? No work!” and unfair pay is the Henry Mayo way!”
Over five hundred union members didn’t show up to work. Over 250 showed up on the picket line. “The remaining employees are either on probation or per diem,” a veteran UE organizer briefed me. “We shut down seven to eight units in the hospital,” he said. They had been out here since 4:30 am.
Throughout the evening rush hour, a chorus of cars honked their horns in support. One young white woman rolled down her window passenger side window to give two thumbs up, smiling enthusiastically. A non-union Amazon truck driver honked his horn in solidarity.
Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital is in California’s 27th congressional district, represented by Republican Congressperson Mike Garcia. He won reelection in 2022 by 13,846 votes, or 8.4%, beating Democrat Christy Smith. Garcia is on record opposing the Protecting the Right to Organize act.
The next morning in the pouring rain, 65,000 SEIU and UTLA public school employees struck the Los Angeles Unified School District, beginning a three day unfair labor practices strike. Southern California is on the move.