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Agreement Averts Alta Bates Walkout

Tuesday June 29, 2004

A 27-year employee is back on the job at the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center after close to the entire hospital staff—with the exception of only the doctors—threatened to walk off the job for one day unless she was reinstated. 

Beverly Griffith, who works in the environmental services department at the Summit campus, had been suspended for three weeks after an altercation with an Alta Bates Summit security guard. According to union representatives from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 250, Griffith had intervened when she observed the guard attempting to prevent a union organizer from passing out union flyers. 

Alta Bates Summit would not comment other than to say, “Any employee who does not follow the guidelines of conduct is definitely going to have a suspension, and that’s exactly what happened.” 

Representatives from the union said Alta-Bates Summit’s decision to hire Griffith back was clearly a reaction to the threatened strike. Employees, they said, originally voted by an overwhelming majority to support Griffith by holding the one-day walk out.  

Currently, SEIU Local 250 represents about 1,300 licensed vocational nurses, certified nursing assistants and food service workers. They were joined by almost 1,700 registered nurses represented by the California Nursing Association and about 230 radiology technicians, respiratory therapists, and operating room technicians represented by the California Healthcare employees in the threatened strike. 

“It was really overwhelming for my co-workers to stand up and say hands off our union,” said Griffith. 

Local 250 employees have been bargaining with the hospital since their old contract expired April 30. Little progress has been made since then, with both sides accusing the other of inferior contract offers. 

According to Griffith, her suspension was only supposed to last one week, but when she showed up back to work, she was told that she was still under investigation. Alta Bates Summit drew out her suspension, she said, because hospital administrators knew she was a leader in the union and wanted to scare other employees from speaking up. 

Carolyn Kemp, a spokesperson for Alta Bates Summit, disputes the claim that Griffith’s suspension was intentionally extended because of Griffith’s union activities. Kemp also disputed the claim that the threatened strike forced the hospital to reinstate Griffith. 

“[The hospital] decided that a 27-year employee who probably had some misdirection from her union representative deserved a second chance,” Kemp said.ª