Cedars-Sinai employees staged a protest Wednesday after the hospital received seven health and safety violations that workers said left them “defenseless” during the pandemic.

The protest was led by the Service Employees International Union- United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) with employees chanting and holding signs that read, “Cedars: Invest in your workers,” and “staffing=safety.”

The $97,700-worth of citations were handed out by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), many of which were related to COVID-19 and considered “serious.”

Cedars contested each violation, with Cal/OSHA noting that the citations have not been closed and violations may still be added or deleted.

Among the citations, Cedars was said to not have reported when employees had contracted COVID-19, some of which had died with the disease while being treated at the hospital.

“It’s outrageous that Cedars-Sinai Medical Center left some of its employees defenseless against COVID-19 as we worked together to care for patients,” Taryne Mosley, a surgical technician at Cedars-Sinai said. “We want our employer to protect healthcare workers from suffering harm in the first place, not only after people have died. The public needs to know that Cedars-Sinai is putting patients and workers in danger by not complying with basic health and safety laws.”

Cedars-Sinai staff member Willie Gladney told L.A. Weekly that vulnerable workers such as pregnant women and elderly workers with pre-existing conditions were regularly scheduled to work on floors with COVID-19 patients.

Gladney recalled an instance where a fellow employee who was 65 years old may have contracted COVID-19 at Cedars-Sinai and infecting her husband.

“There’s a woman who contracted COVID working and she actually went home and her husband got COVID and ended up dying from COVID,” Gladney said. “This floor was designated a COVID floor, that woman should have never been on that floor.”

While hard to pinpoint where any one person may have contracted the virus, one of the violations received by the hospital related to COVID-19 was that it “failed” to minimize exposure for staff and nurses in a breakroom.

(Photo courtesy of SEIU-UWH)

The contract for more than 2,000 Cedars-Sinai employees represented by the SEIU-UWH expired on March 31. On April 11, healthcare workers voted on a strike not only over safety concerns, but lack of staffing staffing, and wage negotiations.

Cedars-Sinai said in a statement that the protest was not a strike, as notice must be given by the union first.

The hospital also it has been recognized for “market-leading pay,” and made the union an offer that was rejected.

“On the first day of bargaining, March 21, Cedars-Sinai presented the union with a strong economic proposal, which would have provided pay increases to bargaining unit employees as early as March 27,” Cedars-Sinai said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the union rejected our offer — without asking its 2,000 members, who account for 13% of Cedars-Sinai’s workforce.”

Cedars added that it raised the hourly wage for its lowest-paid employees by $2, as well as “thank you” bonuses.

“Among other benefits, we provided free lodging to employees during the pandemic to help assure the safety of their families, as well as reimbursement and reduced rates for backup childcare and adult/elder care, and pay protection for those whose hours were affected by the pandemic,” Cedars added. “Cedars-Sinai has maintained strong working relationships with our SEIU-UHW-represented employees for years… we look forward to continuing our discussions with SEIU-UHW to finalize a new contract.”

LA Weekly