JOSHUA TREE — Medical technicians from Hi-Desert Medical Center demonstrated on Twentynine Palms Highway at White Feather Road Wednesday.
Union organizer Juan Vasquez offered copies of chants and last-minute instructions for picketers just before they started Wednesday morning.
He emphasized they should tell anyone who asked about their concern for the patients.
The picketers are members of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers, who are in negotiations with officials at Tenet Healthcare Corp., which leases and operates the medical center.
The union represents technicians at the hospital, said Marla Williams, who helped organize the demonstration. That includes nurses’ assistants, monitor technicians and scrub techs in the labor and delivery room.
They are hoping to be placed under the master contract workers have at JFK Memorial in Indio and Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, two other Tenet hospitals.
At the demonstration, Vasquez told a reporter that union members want treatment equal to what workers at other Tenet Corporation facilities are receiving.
Workers voted overwhelmingly to form the local union chapter in October and have been negotiating a contract since.
“We want to have the support from our hospital. We care about our patients. We just want to be treated fairly in our jobs,” Williams said.
Williams is a certified nurse assistant who has worked at the medical center for 8½ years.
In a statement released through spokesman Gary Hopkins, who works at an office in Los Angeles, Hi-Desert Medical Center officials expressed disappointment at the demonstration.
“While we recognize the union’s right to conduct informational picketing, we are disappointed that it is taking this approach before giving the bargaining process a chance,” the statement reads.
“We began negotiating a first contract with the union in February, and have had only four bargaining sessions to date. We will continue to negotiate in good faith in hopes of reaching a successful resolution with the union.”
The demonstration, officials said, will not affect hospital operations.
“The hospital will be fully operational that day and our staff’s focus, as always, will be on providing exceptional quality patient care.”
Another negotiation session has been scheduled for May.