THAT WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' DINNER the other night nicely sums up the true state of the nation. We had the president functioning as co-master of ceremonies with a comedian as unamusing as he was, along with a bi-partisan collection of mediocre professional officeholders of the Panetta-Gingrich type supplemented by female “celebrities” with large breasts and the lapdog White House journalists themselves, one of whom got an award for bravery for not asking a single inconvenient question all year. The whole show was beyond vulgar, worse in its squalidly decadent way than the same dinner in the Bush years when Bush joked about finding no WMDs in Iraq as thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of Americans were dying for his lie.
THE IRS descended on two Ukiah restaurants last Wednesday, both on North State Street. Walters' Cafe and Ruen Tong Thai Cuisine got hit by federal auditors. The IRS, natch, isn't talking and neither are the raided restaurants.
THE FEDS have also taken over an Emerald Triangle pot killing. In March, US Attorney Melinda Haag filed federal murder and conspiracy drug charges against Mikal Xylon Wilde of Kneeland, Humboldt County, for the 2010 shooting that left Mario Roberto Juarez-Madrid dead and Fernando Lopez badly wounded. A third man who fled the scene probably remains quite worried. Juarez-Madrid and Lopez are from Guatamala. They'd probably done much of the heavy lifting for Wilde's Kneeland pot op. Before his arrest, Wilde, 28 at the time of the shooting, had been one of our busier entrepreneurs, with Wilde Motors in Ukiah and a medical marijuana business in Citrus Heights called Compassionate Patients Center. Clearly not in compassion mode when he shot his laborers, Wilde is believed to have opened fire on the Guatamalans to avoid profit-sharing, murder being a time-tested shortcut to capital accumulation. HumCo DA Paul Gallegos had dropped cultivation and sales charges against Wilde to simplify the murder case against him. It is assumed that the feds, more and more interested in the Northcoast's pot business, have taken charge of the Wilde case so they can also reinstate the marijuana part of the matter.
AS LABOR-MANAGEMENT negotiations stall at Fort Bragg's Coast District Hospital, labor has gone to wall posters to make their case. Copies of letters from union representatives as well as copies of letters from hospital CEO Ray Hino festoon the hallways of Mendocino County's only publicly-owned medical center. The wall letters give us a glimpse of the problems facing both sides of the increasingly intransigent dispute.
ONE LETTER from a union official decries Hino's shots at the union. He “accuses, both directly and indirectly, your union of being the cause of their instability and of refusing to work with the hospital to resolve these problems. Nothing can be further from the truth. … hospital administration has chosen to blame your union for the hospital's current financial condition, meanwhile ignoring their other debtors who should also be expected to share in any needed relief.”
HINO says management has taken a 5% cut while, in fact, his own pay has risen to upwards of $150,000 annually. Hospital employees respond that even if management has tapped itself for a painless 5% it's an “empty sacrifice” because management gave themselves a 5% raise a year ago.
THE UNION has a three-year contract signed only a year ago. They say that Hospital Administration wants to break the deal to achieve a variety of givebacks and reductions, including major reductions in employer pension contributions and health insurance coverage. The union says that what they're asking is that the hospital negotiate in accordance with labor law.
THE ODDEST CHARGE in the back and forth between the union and hospital administration, so odd at first we thought it was a joke, is an unsigned memo which appeared on the hospital's cafeteria door late last month. It claimed that the cafeteria “loses hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.”
IT'S HARD to imagine how the hospital's tiny cafeteria could lose that much money, but administration has closed it, and is in the process of incrementally privatizing employee food service by inviting local food vendors to offer packaged foods and stock the vending machines more frequently. If closing the hospital cafeteria could save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, there wouldn't be any need to renegotiate the union contract.
HINO arrived in Fort Bragg in November of 2006. From all accounts his leadership in his first three years as boss retrieved Coast Hospital from the brink of bankruptcy caused by a profligate previous management and, of course, the usual admin-hostage board of directors. Hino's own pay has steadily risen. He now wants the union to take a 5% pay cut across the board, matching the above-mentioned 5% reduction that management supposedly has taken. He also wants to repeal the wage increase that was to take effect in July, and he wants to take back the 6% employer contribution to the employee retirement plan. All this plus the elimination of health insurance for dependents.
AND HINO SAYS he “plans to have medical staff contractors (doctors, mostly) share in the 5% reduction as well.” But these reductions can only be negotiated as the doctors' contracts individually come up for renewal. Hino says since management has already done its part to keep Coast Hospital solvent with the 5% pay cut, a reduction in management staff, a “profitability improvement plan” to farm out home health care, and a “labor productivity program” which is yet to be defined. And he wants the hospital to do more to make sure their 25 beds are occupied, reducing the “leakage” to other hospitals in the area.
UNION OFFICIALS continue to insist that they are open to further negotiations and that they expect such negotiations to occur before the impasse goes to mediation or, worse, walkouts or lockouts. The union also believes that Hino's occasional reference to filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 9 of the bankruptcy code is a veiled (and unethical) threat to the force the union into renegotiating the union contract.
CLOSING the hospital’s little cafeteria
Requires a major exercise in hysteria
They seem to say
it’ll somehow save the day.
But it’s the impasse that’s really the disaster area.