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Tuesday, Jan 31, 2023
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Support Workers at Long Beach Hospital Decide to Join Union

Support Workers at Long Beach Hospital Decide to Join Union

By LAURENCE DARMIENTO

Staff Reporter

Some 1,100 workers voted to unionize this month at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, building on a lengthy but successful organizing campaign involving registered nurses in 2001.

Laboratory technicians, clerical employees and other non-professional support staff voted to join the Health Care Workers Alliance, while the vote of several hundred other workers, including licensed vocational nurses, is still up in the air and may take weeks to finalize.

The election, at the second largest private hospital on the West Coast, marks yet another win by labor unions, which have been organizing nurses and other hospital workers throughout Southern California for the past few years.

It also marks the latest development in a battle between the state’s two largest health care unions the California Nurses Association and the Service Employees International Union to add those workers to their ranks.

This is the first group of hospital employees who have voted to join the Alliance, which was formed by the California Nurses Association and the United Steelworkers of America, to organize health care workers other than registered nurses at hospitals throughout the country. Despite its name, the steelworkers union is actually a diversified union.

The CNA represents only registered nurses in California, including those at Long Beach. But the CNA has found its home turf challenged by the SEIU, which has been aggressively organizing registered nurses in the state.

The CNA formed the alliance to respond to the SEIU, targeting employees who aren’t registered nurses at hospitals, the mainstay of the SEIU. It also has formed an offshoot called the Caregivers and Health Care Employees Union, aimed at those same employees. The offshoot is only a statewide group, while the Health Care Workers Alliance has national ambitions.

“This alliance combines the size and strength of the steelworkers union and health care expertise of the CNA,” said Fernando Losada, director of non-registered nurse organizing for the CNA.

SEIU officials could not be reached for comment. Meanwhile, Long Beach Memorial Center spokeswoman Terri Starkman would only say that the hospital respects the employees’ right to organize and hopes it can “maintain an environment of mutual support and respect moving forward.”

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