Submitted on Mon, 06/04/2018 – 11:46am
The dialysis workers of Humboldt County are going IWW. Worsening working conditions at the only two dialysis clinics in the County, both owned by the German based company Fresenius, has culminated in a unionization drive that continues to grow momentum. Lives in the community are being put at risk as individual technicians are being routinely forced to take care of 6 to 8 patients at a time for 10 to 16 hour shifts. Grossly underpaid and overworked dialysis technicians who fear for their patients safety, have pleaded for years for more staff, more consistent scheduling, better training and fair pay. Having union representation has been a subject fraught with fear and secrecy at a company whose new hire orientation process consists of having to sit through an anti-union information video. However, workers feel they have run out of options. A proposed law in California would make it illegal to have more than three dialysis patients for every dialysis technician. If passed, the law still wouldn’t be enacted until 2020; however, staff is refusing to wait any longer.
For years staff and patient’s concerns have been ignored by corporate and has continued to reveal a disconnection from a company that has put cutting costs over the well being of its clients and workers alike. The company hasn’t wasted any time combating organizing efforts, less than a week after formally announcing their intentions to have a union; corporate has called for “mandatory informational meetings”. These captive audience meetings are forcing staff into separated groups to sit through an hour and a half of management and HR agents trying to convince them in vague terms that conditions will get better and that they don’t need to be union. A patient advocate, who is a patient themselves, was forcibly excluded from the meetings. Ironically Fresenius had to bring in temporary (traveling) workers to perform their duties while staff was in these meetings. In the months prior, shortly after hearing of union activity, management brought in a nurse from corporate’s employee relations department. Along with distributing a poster designed to scare workers from giving personal information to union organizers, they were caught in a lie on day one by claiming that the IWW “doesn’t apply to our work because they only organize factories and sex workers”. One of management’s main tactics is trying to attack the union’s legitimacy in the healthcare industry. The election for union representation set to take place early next month.
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