Former UC Irvine Medical Center Workers Host Town Hall Meeting

In response to a layoff of 175 employees last month, former UCI Medical Center workers and union members from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 3299 held a town hall meeting in Humanities Hall last Thursday night to inform students about layoffs occurring at the UCI Medical Center and to ask UCI students to support them.

UCI Medical Center workers were first given notice that they would be laid off on Oct. 3 through an email from Howard Federoff, CEO of Irvine Health. Through laying off 175 employees and other cuts, Medical Center officials hope to cut costs and save tens of millions of dollars by the end of the fiscal year next June.

Organizers from AFSCME, the union that represents 68 of the 175 former service works,  were critical of the layoffs, particularly in light of high salaries within UC Irvine Health’s administration and the large profit margins of the UCI Medical Center. Federoff was the focus of much of the union’s criticisms, as they cite him as having an annual base salary of $800,000. They also note that the Medical Center made $70 million in profit last year and $130 million over the last two years.

Workers at the town hall and at other actions have heavily criticized hospital officials for their large salaries, as well as for the profits, arguing that the job cuts “reflect a pattern of misplaced priorities.” They argue that the layoffs exacerbate pre-existing staffing problems at the medical center.

“For a public, tax-exempt medical system to put profits before patient care — particularly at a time of chronic understaffing and rising need from patients — is both appalling and dangerous,” said AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger in a press release after the layoffs.

“It is the only Level 1 Trauma Center in all of Orange County” said Jorge Serrato, AFSCME organizer. A trauma center is a hospital equipped and staffed to treat patients who have suffered traumatic injuries. A Level 1 Trauma Center offers the highest level of surgical care.

At the town hall, the union announced its plans to petition the UC Regents in person at their next meeting, this Thursday and Friday, Nov. 16 to 17. In the petition, the workers are calling on the regents to “reverse the layoffs and give all dedicated UCI Health caregivers back their jobs, provide back pay and benefits for all laid off UCI Health workers, and ensure proper staffing at all UC campuses and Medical Centers.”

Hundreds of union workers and their supporters already held a rally picketing the Medical Center on Oct. 18, but they plan to continue actions until their demands are met. While some workers will present the petition in person at the Regents meeting,  other workers will hold yet another action this upcoming Thursday, Nov. 17 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in front of Psychology Building 3 at the Medical Center.