Deadline contributor Ross Lincoln reports that Beverly Hills Hotel security kept a handful of members of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West well back from guests arriving for Saturday night’s 11th Annual ‘Night Before’ Oscars Party. It’s the fundraiser for the Motion Picture and Television Fund thrown by Jeffrey Katzenberg. Union personnel were prohibited from setting foot on hotel property, demarcated by blue tape on the sidewalk next to the main entrance and on the traffic island outside the hotel. As limos began to arrive, the party guests inside mostly didn’t notice the small contingent of SEIU members – 6 total – clustered in an inaccessible area. Any vehicles that did attempt to stop and see what was happening were waved on by hotel security. (“Driver, keep driving!”, security shouted at one car.) The leaflets which union reps attempted to pass out summarized their position: “MPTF management repeatedly denies our efforts to guarantee a safe staffing ratio for patients and residents, which makes it harder to attract and keep qualified caregivers… please encourage management to provide the best patient care possible and to value their caregivers.”
At one point, a union picket line was threatened, but the SEIU settled for just leafletting. Contract talks have dragged on since August 2012 with the MPTF on a new 3-year pact for about 500 members at the MPTF’s Woodland Hills long-term care hospital which at one point Katzenberg wanted to close. The union issues are staffing ratios at the hospital as well as a doubling of healthcare premiums for its members, plus wages and frozen retirement contributions. This month, the union overwhelmingly voted to authorize the union to strike. The next scheduled bargaining sessions is set for March 7 and March 13. Sources tell me if those sessions do not result in some serious movement towards an agreement, the SEIU is prepared to “escalate the situation appropriately”.