ANTIOCH (CBS SF) -- To a chorus of blaring vehicle horns and carrying signs saying "Enough Is Enough," hundreds of health care workers at Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch launched a five-day strike early Monday morning.
Union leaders with Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West said some 350 workers would be taking part in the strike demanding increased staffing and better working conditions. A variety of job classes are on strike including emergency room technicians, phlebotomists, and among others, janitorial staff. None of the striking workers are doctors or registered nurses.
Among those gathered outside the hospital at 3901 Lone Tree Way was Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe.
"All I care about is the fact that this hospital serves residents of Antioch and particularly the most vulnerable in our community," he said. "Any type of impasse that creates strikes, disagreements between management and workers, is concerning to me because this is an important lifeline on our community."
Sutter Health officials issued a statement Monday morning.
"We are disappointed union leaders have chosen to distract from patient care by taking this action, especially at a time when we should be forcing on caring for its community," the statement read. "The union has proved its disregard for patients and communities by engaging in a strike while refusing to make a good faith effort to reach a deal."
But employees claimed officials forced their hand.
"We are striking because it is all about patient safety," said Tom Black, a striking certified nurses assistant." We are understaffed. We are overwhelmed. It's just not safe. That's the reason we are out here so early. We want to get the message out to make things right for us, for the community, for the patients."
Jennifer Stone, an emergency room technician at Sutter Delta Medical Center, echoed those sentiments in a news release.
"We're drowning. There's just not enough staff," Jennifer Stone, an emergency room technician at Sutter Delta Medical Center, said in a statement. "We can't give adequate care. We feel like management is ignoring our concerns and is leaving us to fend for ourselves. We can't do it all anymore."
Respiratory therapist Stefanye Sartain said that some days workers don't get lunches or breaks and claims that that workers are unable to provide adequate care to patients.
Sartain said the hospital was short-staffed before the COVID-19 pandemic and in the last year or so the hospital has failed to fill 30 positions. The positions are not even posted yet, she said.
Respiratory therapists are having to perform EKGs at times because the EKG technician was canceled at that time, Sartain said.
Sutter Health said it stands by its latest offer to workers which includes a 13 percent salary jump over four years, 100 percent employer-paid health insurance coverage for employees and families and money for employees to access "education, credentialing and growth opportunities."
The money will also help with hiring new employees, a Sutter Health spokesperson said.
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