Worker at Medical Center Fired for Blowing Whistle About Biohazard Waste

CHICO, Calif. -- A press conference is being held today, Thursday, January 5, to highlight continuing illegal actions of the Enloe Medical Center Administration. David Vega, a housekeeper for four years at Enloe, was illegally fired after providing management a videotape documenting repeated episodes of improperly disposed of biohazard waste that posed a threat to the health and safety of patients and workers throughout the hospital.

Two co-workers, outraged at the hospital's response, were then illegally suspended without pay for five days after attempting to meet with management about the situation. "All I did was ask for fairness for my co-worker, and Enloe responded in the most unfair way, said Bev Erickson, a sterile processing tech at Enloe and one of the suspended workers. "Losing five days of pay is really hard for me and my family, and it couldn't have come at a worse time because of the holidays."

For more than a year, hundreds of Enloe Medical Center's caregivers and support staff have been struggling to improve patient care and working conditions at the hospital. Two years ago service employees voted to join SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West. After repeated attempts by the Enloe administration to delay certification, the election was certified by the NLRB in August, 2005 and SEIU-UHW was legally recognized as their bargaining representative. Since then, SEIU asserts, management at Enloe has continued to refuse to acknowledge the union or go to the bargaining table, and has racked up numerous unfair labor practice charges since September 2005. Because the terminated employee and the two who were suspended were not allowed union representation at the time they were disciplined, Enloe's actions against them were in effect illegal, according to the SEIU. "At Enloe we still don't have a voice in our work and when we try to stand up for issues of safety and patient care we're retaliated against," said GI tech James Harro, the second worker suspended for speaking out against the firing.

SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West, with more than 140,000 members, is the largest and most powerful healthcare union in the Western U.S. The union represents every type of healthcare worker, including nursing, professional, technical and service classifications.

Source: SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West