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Denver Health Workers Seek To Unionize

DENVER (CBS4) - Angry about executive bonuses, long hours and a lack of personal protective equipment, Denver Health Medical Center workers announced Tuesday they are forming a union to "fight for workers' rights, institutional change, and meaningful public investment to improve patient health outcome," according to a news release from the Communications Workers of America, which would be affiliated with the new union.

Denver Health
(credit: CBS)

Thomas Walker, with the CWA, said there were 20 Denver Health employees on a steering committee, and said the union idea had been "in the works for a little while." He said it would be open to all employees, ranging from doctors to nurses and beyond.

"The announcement follows troubling revelations about soaring executive compensation and bonuses as nurses and other staff are asked to bear cuts in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis," said the announcement.

A CBS4 investigation last month reported that nurses and front line workers were asked April 3 to take pay cuts and reduce hours to help the hospital through a financial downturn brought about by the pandemic. But a week later, on April 10, about 140 executives and managers received Management Incentive Plan (MIP) bonuses for their work at the hospital in 2019.

Some of the bonuses to six-figure workers amounted to nearly 20% of their salaries. The hospital CEO, Robin Wittenstein, received a $230,000 MIP bonus.

Wittenstein has defended the bonuses as simply a component of salary and not actual bonuses, but conceded, "The timing of the payments was terrible."

DENVER HEALTH BONUSES 10 PKG.transfer_frame_951
Robin Wittenstein (credit: CBS)

But in an employee meeting this week, she and other executives who defended the payments were peppered with questions from staff members about salaries for front line workers, a lack of Personal Protective Equipment and short staffing.

"I'm on my sixth day, and I'm exhausted," said one nurse. Another nurse asked, "What is the bonus compensation for everyone, not just executive staff?" Others asked about hazard pay for front line workers.

RELATED: Denver Health Nurse To CEO: 'Don't Have Trust Or Faith' In Execs Over Bonus Issue 

The new union webpage said dues would range from $15 to $55 depending on the salary of the employee.

A hospital spokesperson did not respond to an email from CBS4 seeking comment.

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