Housekeepers march for basic rights

04/04/08 Mitch E. Perry
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This afternoon elected officials joined housekeepers in picketing a West Palm Beach hospital, demanding the right to a living wage, affordable healthcare and better working conditions.

The demonstration was held in front of St. Mary’s Medical Center, but the protest was aimed at Medi-Dyn, a hospital housekeeping contract managerial service.

Monica Russo, president of the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Florida, said today’s protest was intentionally held on the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., who was leading a garbage workers strike at the time he was killed.

Also participating in the protest was Rhonda Smith, a housekeeper who has worked at St. Mary’s Medical Center for six years. She said of all her desires, the priority is to get affordable health care.

According to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), only 4 percent of employees pay for Medi-Dyn sponsored health insurance for their children.

Russo said the biggest thing the union is fighting for right now is Medi-Dyn’s downsizing of jobs, making the shifts part time, not full time.

Arturo Ross is an attorney with Littler, Mendelson, and is an outside labor counsel for Medi-Dyn, whose corporate headquarters are based in Colorado. He said he’s hopeful that a new agreement between labor and management happens soon.

Ross says there have been four bargaining sessions with the SEIU Healthcare Florida within the last month, and says that the specific differences with a wage increase schedule and are only a percentage point off on wages.

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