May 19, 2020
To: Kevin Smith and Dylan King
We have been informed by our parent organization, SEIU, and by our sister Local SEIU 1199, that you, Kevin, and Brett Ruzzo, of HCA reached out to demand concessions from our members at 121RN and at all SEIU Locals (and other Unions) across the country with a threat of layoffs, ending 401K matching contributions this year, cutting shift differentials and other benefits. All of these threats with an “offer” to maintain everything as is in exchange for our agreement to a freeze on wage increases in 2020, to do away with wage increases in 2021 and to end shift differentials where they exist are unacceptable.
HCA can afford to maintain the wages and benefits as they are, as well as the entirety of the workforce, but is making a choice to institute cuts unless we agree to an ultimatum – agree to freezes and cuts for this year and next in exchange for maintaining some benefits through this year only. In sharing this information with many of our leaders from across all three facilities, they were resoundingly in agreement that they will not give in to ultimatums and that HCA’s approach is nothing less than bullying behavior. This is coming from a healthcare system that publicly thanks its nurses and other healthcare professionals while simultaneously ignoring their plight, silencing them, retaliating against them when they advocate for themselves and their patients, and continues to actively identify ways to take from their livelihoods and well-being.
On behalf of our members, I want to remind you that we, at 121RN, have not received any official communications from HCA or its hospitals about these matters and that the HCA hospitals must reach out to us, directly, through the appropriate notification process in our collective bargaining agreements. You may not circumvent this process, as the existing CBAs are between us and the individual HCA hospitals – RCH, WHHMC and LRHMC.
Although we have received no official “proposals” directly, I would like to be clear that 121RN members are not prepared to accept any ultimatum that would require them to give up pay or other benefits and that the hospitals are legally required to bargain in good faith through the upcoming negotiations process (for which we have already sent our availability to meet, as you know). We are not interested in opening up any of the contracts prematurely to bargain away concessions that HCA has proposed and that are contained in a settled and legally-binding contract, nor are we interested in listening to threats or ultimatums that would negatively impact our members.
During a time that nurses and other healthcare professionals are more beloved than ever before, it is in poor form, to say the least, to threaten wage and benefit takeaways from the very people the hospitals should be thanking every day—with actions, not words. These healthcare professionals have gone above and beyond to provide life-saving care to HCA’s patients while jeopardizing their own safety and their very lives. Nurses and other professionals should be looked upon with gratitude and compassion, not as casualties to be shrugged off by a healthcare corporation that was ill-prepared to provide them the support they require.
On a recent shareholders call, HCA touted the combined $4.7 billion in funding it has received from the CARES Act and the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, as well as the $75 million per month in payroll tax savings that began in April. In addition to this and in spite of the pandemic, HCA continues to earn millions of dollars in profit, including in the first quarter of 2020 for hospitals like Los Robles at about $40 million in profit, to name one. Given the strength of HCA’s operations and financial outlook as verbalized by Sam Hazen during the shareholders call, “Fortunately, I see HCA Healthcare as uniquely positioned to help define the new normal and capitalize on new opportunities,” there should not be threats of cuts to wages or benefits.
It’s good to know that HCA is financially profitable and in a good position to capitalize during this time of crisis. From Sam Hazen’s own words: “HCA Healthcare is a nation of heroes.” Sam Hazen and HCA’s leadership team should treat them as such.
Sincerely, Rosanna Mendez Executive Director, SEIU Local 121RN