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El Camino Hospital Workers Want Cap on Exec Pay

SEIU-UHW caregivers and service members plan to propose ballot initiative to cut salary for 2012 election.

workers are mad and they don't want to take it anymore.

Members of the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare West (SEIU-UHW) announced on Wednesday, Oct. 12 their plan to put an initiative on the 2012 election ballot to cap the salaries of hospital executives and district board members. They find it unfair that at a non-profit hospital executives get "sky-high" pay while caregivers face the elimination for their health insurance and other benefits.

"They just want to hold on to what they currently have," said Carlyn Foster, a union spokeswoman. "If you add it up, some of the workers are potentially losing thousands of dollars off their salary."

Foster acknowledged that the language of the initiative has not been finalized and won't be for a few weeks, and so doesn't know what the cap would be. She added that the measure would appear in cities that the hospital district covers.

Officials at El Camino Hospital had not heard about the union's aim.

"We respect the right of SEIU to use the initiative process, but we can’t respond to the substance of the initiative since it hasn’t been prepared yet," said Judy Twitchell, a hospital spokeswoman.

According to Foster while executive pay is in the hundreds of thousands, lab technicians, license vocational nurses, environmental service workers–that is, the dietery workers in the kitchen, custodians–could potentially suffer a reduction in the retirement pensions, holiday pay, healthcare and differentials.

In contrast, in a press release, Foster cites former hospital CEO Kenneth Graham's total compensation as "more than $1.1 million" and the current CEO's as "$695,000 per year with the opportunity to make an additional 20 (up to 30%) percent in bonuses."

"Our members are concern about trying to bring to light the vast difference in salary that servicememebrs aren't making," she said.

However, Twitchell pointed to the hospital's negotiation information website where they explained the "fact and fiction" of the SEIU's statements, including that hospital employees will not have their healthcare eliminated nor their pension reduced.

Twitchell also clarified that in 2010 Graham’s total cash compensation was $632,640 and with benefits reached $890,622. She also explained that of the $8 to $9 million the hospital collects from taxpayers each year, nearly $5 million goes to "community health improvement programs within the District with the remainder designated for 'brick and mortar' improvements and certain capital equipment."

But hospital employees would still like to see the gap in salary get a little smaller.

"It's really distressing to see how on one hand the hospital can find the money to pay exorbitant salaries to its executives," said Kevin Fitzpatrick, a worker at El Camino Hospital in the press release,  "and on the other hand they are willing to reduce healthcare benefits for working families."

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