Last week, the National Union of Hospital and Healthcare Employees Local 1199, started a series of pickets against UNM Hospital (UNMH) after entering into contentious contract negotiations where local nurses, caregivers and staff would lose benefits that are already provided to them if they sign a new negotiated agreement. Now, the union is asking for community support in turning up the heat on UNMH.
This Thursday, June 20 at 5:30pm, the union will hold another picket on Lomas, outside of UNMH. Members request the presence of community allies who believe in better working conditions, fair pay and respect for workers.
The picket comes on the heels of UNMH’s deal to provide their CEO a cash compensation as high as $155,000 in addition to a base salary of $620,000. UNMH’s workers, on the other hand, are proposed to receive a pitiful raise- as little as $5.60 a week. This paltry raise seems to be UNMH’s idea of a consolation prize, in exchange for the benefits they also propose to strip from their workers. The UNMH’s proposed take-backs include:
- A cut to Friday night pay differentials
- A cut to hourly on-call compensation
- Limiting vacation time for senior employees
- Increasing requirements for bilingual employee compensation
- Cut backs on employee cafeteria discounts from 30% to 10%
Gilberta Miera, the Licensed and Technical Chapter President of Local 1199 has been negotiating with UNM Hospitals for over 15 years and said that this year was by far the worst for negotiations. “Management makes sure to give themselves huge bonuses, yet they continue to not give anything to the employees. This needs to stop, it has been years of this unethical treatment” she said. “At the end of the day, when employees aren’t paid it is the patient that suffers.”
At this point, there may be nothing to lose for Local 1199 by not signing the proposed contract. In fact, the new contract would mean that many UNMH employees may lose more in benefits than the minimal 1.4% raise they would receive. The current negotiated agreement with the union and the hospital ends on June 30, and while current contract language would hold until a new agreement is reached, it is clear that the line in the sand has been drawn.
“There are individuals that I know who have dedicated years of good, valuable service to the organization who have to train new employees coming in making almost 20% or more than they are. That is not fair,” said Eghe Ehiman, an operating room nurse at UNMH. “What we really want to see is a fair wage scale implemented at UNMH… We are healthcare workers who day in and day out, give 100% to provide good patient care no matter our role. We should all be fairly compensated for that.”
UNMH would be wise to take heed from their workers; at a time when healthcare workers are in short supply across the nation, treating workers with respect and dignity in the workplace would only benefit the hospital and their patients. The hospital should even do so much as to be grateful to their employees, who forewent any sort of living increases during the years of the Martinez administration to make sure that the hospital could stay afloat financially during the drastic budget cuts.
Our advice to UNMH: Treat your workers with the respect they deserve. Withdraw your proposed take-backs, honor experienced employees and collaborate on an equitable pay scale. Then, place a bulk order for thank-you notes, properly addressed to the union workers who successfully lobbied for more money in your hospital budget during the 2019 legislative session.
Our call to action for readers: Show up for workers this Thursday, June 20 at 5:30pm outside the entrance of UNM Hospital on Lomas. Join nurses, caregivers and staff on the picket line to demand that employees be treated with dignity in the workplace.