WATSONVILLE — More than 100 hospital technicians picketed in front of Watsonville Community Hospital Wednesday, decrying what they called “bad faith bargaining tactics” that include cuts to employees’ healthcare benefits.
“As a healthcare facility, you would expect the hospital to care more about its workers and patients,” said pharmacy technician Lydia Chacón Barba. “If workers are forced to leave Watsonville Community for nearby hospitals because it’s harder to provide for our families, that leaves Watsonville patients with less experienced staff, which could harm the whole community.”
Surgical technologist Christopher Gil said the hospital does not pay enough to compensate for the high cost of living in the Bay Area, making experienced technicians leave for hospitals that do. That, he said, creates an unsafe environment for patients.
Several elected officials also joined the picket, holding signs and marching with the workers.
“This tarnishes the community,” said Watsonville City Councilman Felipe Hernandez. “The quicker they can move on to negotiating, the quicker they can get back to work.”
The strike affects 160 workers, including certified nursing assistants, clinical laboratory scientists, laboratory technicians, dietary technicians, emergency room technicians, maintenance engineers, housekeepers and secretaries.
Watsonville Community Hospital spokeswoman Cindy Weigelt called the workers’ move “disappointing,” but said the hospital was planning to provide “uninterrupted care.”
“Nothing will stop our hospital from delivering high-quality care to our patients and community,” she said.
The hospital has activated a contingency operations plan and will be appropriately staffed throughout any work stoppage, Weigelt said.
“As always, our top priority remains the care and safety of our patients, employees and visitors,” she said.