Pleasanton Weekly

News - March 12, 2010

Healthcare workers take 1-day walkout at county jail

Contract employer calls action illegal

by Jeb Bing

Nurses, physician's assistants, dental assistants and others who provide medical care at Alameda County's two correctional facilities staged a one-day walkout Tuesday, charging their private employer with unfair labor practices, overstaffing levels and workplace safety at the facilities.

The workers are members of the United Healthcare Workers-West (SEIU-UHW), part of the Service Employees International Union, a national union with 2.1 million members. They were joined on the picket line by SEIU International President Andy Stern.

Healthcare services at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and at the Glenn Dyer Detention Center are contracted out to Prison Health Services, a Tennessee-based for-profit corporation. It holds a $77-million, three-year contract with Alameda County to provide medical services at the two facilities.

"This is about the selfishness of an out-of-state corporation -- Prison Health Services -- with earnings of over a half-a-billion dollars that is pocketing taxpayer dollars instead of using the money to benefit the county and our people as it promised," said Maxine Persky, a nurse at the Santa Rita Jail for 10 years.

In a statement signed by Adriana Surfas of the SEIU-UHW, the union accused Prison Health Services of launching "a campaign of threats and intimidation against workers including notifying employees of a seven-day illegal lock-out following Tuesday's planned one-day strike, and cancelled workers' approved vacations."

The union statement also said that in its contract with the Alameda County, Prison Health Services budgeted for a 10-percent increase in wages and healthcare benefits in years two and three of its county contract.

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