Amanda Stuck, SEIU Healthcare Workers Rally for a Safer Hospital
APPLETON, WI – Service Employees International Union Healthcare Wisconsin (SEIU HCWI) members at ThedaCare Appleton, fellow union members, community allies, and State Representative Amanda Stuck rallied on Monday to demand that management maintain safe staffing levels by investing in their employees.
The Union maintains that the wage increases management is offering are not enough to recruit and retain employees–a problem that has led to chronic staffing shortages and a decline in patient care. Employees regularly leave ThedaCare Appleton for jobs at other facilities with higher pay, as competitors in the area pay around $2 per hour more for the same work.
“My co-workers are leaving in droves and taking jobs with higher pay. We’ve lost ten employees in just over a month–five in a single week,” said Amy Christopherson, an SEIU housekeeper at ThedaCare. “Many who have stayed work two or three jobs and donate plasma to pay for basic expenses. These conditions make it difficult to recruit and retain employees.”
“We are currently working at 50% staffing with 18 open positions,” Christopherson added. “Being so understaffed is harmful to our patients. We have to cut corners to get all of the work completed during our shift. Staff are currently assigned two floors with roughly 40-48 patients. We are expected to complete stat discharges before daily cleans, and therefore not all rooms are cleaned every day. It can’t stay like this.”
Mark Heinrich, a ThedaCare cook and member of SEIU’s negotiation team, addressed the crowd about ThedaCare’s proposed changes to benefits and bargaining rights.
“We’re already struggling to pay our medical bills, and ThedaCare is telling us they need the “flexibility” to change our benefits. They want to take away our right to negotiate over health insurance, retirement, disability, leave of absence, differentials, on-call pay, and even wages. Bargaining over benefits and compensation is a fundamental union right that is under attack,” Henrich said. “If health insurance costs go up, or we have to pay more out of pocket, I’m not sure what we’ll do. There are so many of us having to deal with this – I have co-workers who can’t pay their medical bills, and ThedaCare has taken them to collections. It’s just wrong.”
State Representative Amanda Stuck, who represents a large portion of Appleton in Wisconsin State Assembly’s 57th District, spoke at Monday’s demonstration.
“ThedaCare owns seven hospitals with revenues nearing $1 billion, yet its service and support employees can’t make ends meet. These are conscientious, hard-working people with jobs crucial to patient safety. They should not have to work multiple jobs to be able to pay their bills,” Stuck commented. “ThedaCare needs to agree to a fair union contract with higher compensation to recruit and retain the staff necessary for quality patient care. Appleton deserves a hospital that prioritizes patients over profits.” Stuck, a Democrat, is currently running for Congress in Wisconsin’s Eighth District.
SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin represents CNAs, Housekeepers, Sterile Processing Technicians, Dining Services workers, and Facilities workers at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center – Appleton. The workers voted down management’s final offer on October 1, 2019, for failing to address the Union’s core issues of negotiations – recruiting and retaining well-trained staff to be able to provide quality care in a safe, sterile environment to their patients and community. The parties have been at the table since April. The contract expired on April 30, 2019, with an extension through June 10, 2019, and has since not been extended.