LOS ANGELES - "No contract, no peace!" chanted over fifty demonstrators from SEIU/USWW (Service Employees International Union/United Service Workers West) here Mar. 12.
They started out late morning at the Cadillac Kaiser healthcare facility in West L.A., and after a rousing rally boarded buses for other Kaiser facilities in the city.
The union, which represents Kaiser's contracted security officers, says that it has been bargaining in good faith, while staying on the job despite the absence of a contract since last August.
Among the demands for inclusion in a new contract is one for more than two days sick leave per year. Workers say that if a security officer at a KP hospital has to return to work with the flu, after only two days, they can leave the hospital sicker than when they came in.
They also note that if they don't have time to properly heal after an illness they jeopardize the health of hospital patients.
Representatives of two California State Assembly members, Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Holly Mitchell, spoke movingly about the unequivocal support they are offering the union in this fight.
"The fight for justice never ends-it's all connected," said the Rev. Eric P. Lee, president of the Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance. "It's about working-class people fighting for the benefits we deserve, not just in L.A. but all across the country where working people are fighting for our rights." Lee cited the ancient Hebrews marching and shouting down the walls of Jericho as a symbol of tenacious struggle.
SEIU/USWW is also negotiating the master contract between its workers and the owners of high-rise complexes throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties. That expired in December. Ironically, some of those security workers actually have Kaiser medical benefits in their package. The workers at Kaiser who are employed by Securitas, however, do not have those Kaiser benefits. Workers say they will not allow themselves to be divided on the basis of the levels of health benefits they now have.
SEIU has launched an educational campaign to inform both Kaiser members and the general public about how the security workers at these healthcare facilities cannot afford to get sick, and can't afford not to work. The union vows not to quit until a contract is signed.
It's wrenching injustices like this that make one question why healthcare is even tied to a job or a spouse or a contract, or to the specific age group one is in. Why not universal single-payer coverage for all?
Photo: Eric A. Gordon/PW