Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lip Service

I have been thinking lately that I was yearning for less "personal content" on this blog. I can't wait for the day when I have to dig deep to think of anything blogworthy in our lives for posting. I'd like to have to write about inane TV, celebrity gossip, etc. As luck would have it though, events keep transpiring to create more content. 

I mentioned the strike at UCSF earlier. Let me begin by stating that I am by no means anti-union. I am the daughter and grand-daughter of union employees. I believe the collective bargaining process makes sense in some situations and that workers' concerns about benefits, pensions, and the like are, of course, legitimate.

But - from a very current, very personal perspective - I am also angry at collective bargaining situations that result in substandard patient care. And I am furious at parties in these situations who employ blatantly false rhetoric. As one of my friends put it, patients should never, ever be "bargaining chips" in this type of dispute.

Patients were, however, undeniably impacted by this strike. Jeff was lucky to end up with a lamer than usual breakfast and to actually get his chemo as scheduled (even though it was much more uncomfortable than it might have been if the CT machine had been available as usual.)  Radiation and chemotherapy were postponed for many other patients. Bone marrow transplant procedures were delayed. Surgeries for children who need heart operations did not happen on schedule. The list goes on - see here.

In light of these facts, it made my blood boil to see these AFSCME signs that claimed to be striking for "our patients" as the number one priority. Bullshit.

Now I understand that a group of employees engaged in a struggle with their employer have only so many cards in their deck and a limited set of strategies to employ. But the union is making claims in this situation that just don't add up. This is disingenuous crap.

For example, the union says they are striking for their patients because:
  • Current staffing ratios are making it difficult to provide quality care. A legitimate point, maybe. But this issue is at loggerheads with all the union's other demands. Increasing pension benefits, wages, etc will make the cost of doing business go up for UCSF. There's no way around that. Ultimately, if labor costs rise, won't UCSF have to respond by cutting labor later - defeating the stated goal of improving staffing ratios?
  • Same goes for the demand that a flexible workforce be automatically converted to permanent status. I presume, this will also make labor costs rise since I'd think that a status conversion would mean an increase in (costly) benefits for newly permanent workers. Don't get me wrong, I believe such benefits are good things, but this is not in the "patients' interest."  Puh-lease.  I also assume that this particular demand would just result in lining the union's pockets.  More permanent workers probably means more union workers and more dues for AFSCME . [Note: I haven't fact-checked my assumptions here. I have a husband with cancer and two little kids to take care of so my priorities are elsewhere. I also drafted this post while nursing Lydia at 2AM - so forgive me. I will happily stand corrected if I am wrong.]
  • Even the claim that a better rested workforce will result in better patient care fails to resonate with me.  The contention is that the union wants more pay for missed breaks. At first blush, okay, makes sense:   create policy conditions wherein employers will want to push employees to take needed breaks. But really, might additional pay for missed breaks only create incentives for workers to skip breaks intentionally? Seems just as likely.
  • And the subcontract argument isn't about patients either.  I don't feel that one even deserves my time.
These, and other, specious claims about striking "for the patients" are annoying enough. But seeing at least seven patients (Jeff included) sent home from the heme/onc ward in one night to address short staffing is quite another. I pray that all these discharge decisions were medically appropriate, but the mere fact that the strike played a part in them makes me uneasy.  And knowing that some patients were denied scheduled surgeries, transplants, and life saving therapies is just unconscionable. This dispute is about money. Fundamentally, that's it - nothing more. Patients are just caught in the crossfire.

So, hope with me that this dispute reaches a resolution soon. No more patients should have to suffer. And this Mama Bear will be LIVID if it creates any delay in Jeff's treatment schedule or standard of care.  

With that I will sign off, sounding (incongruously) like the least liberal person in this City by the Bay,


PS - I acknowledge that a neutral fact-finder has apparently sided with the union on several of the collective bargaining demands.  That still doesn't make these demands "about the patients" or "for their benefit."  And that is my beef.  The end.

1 comment:


What a shame that the union grievances couldn't have been negotiated without a walkout. May the walkout end quickly.
A prayer for patients and for patience is called for. "Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor." Romans 12.9.