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[whitespace] Dominican Letter Wars: Dominican Hospital's Sister Julie and Assemblymember Fred Keeley proved that the pen is mightier than the sword this month.


Hyer Power

The California Nurses Association reached a tentative contract agreement with Dominican and nine other Catholic Healthcare West hospitals last week, thereby narrowly averting a strike. And though nurses didn't get the retirement benefits package they'd hoped for, they're satisfied for now.

Says union negotiator Barbara Williams, "We were coming from a place of having nothing and wanting everything, but we realize we can't have it all at once." Williams believes the deal, which includes a 22.5 percent wage increase over two years, will go a long way toward retaining current nursing staff but won't be enough to recruit new nurses. "So, we will continue to work to improve retirement," Williams adds.

Dominican nurses will vote to ratify the deal on June 27, the same day that service workers will decide whether SEIU Local 250 will represent their concerns. This decision may be swayed by a June 19 letter that Assemblymember Fred Keeley sent to Dominican Hospital employees, c/o SEIU Local 250 organizer Bob Downing, sharing his thoughts about SEIU.

Writes Keeley, "[SEIU Local 250 has] been a key participant in state and local matters, and their knowledge and experience make them successful advocates." While Keeley's staffers claim they are not playing "hide the ball," having faxed Dominican administrators a copy of the letter the same day it was sent, Keeley received a dressing down from Dominican President and CEO Sister Julie Hyer, who in a letter dated June 22 claimed she had received Keeley's letter via another Dominican employee.

"Your letter is being used to violate the spirit of the rules of engagement agreed upon between SEIU and CHW," wrote Sister Julie, explaining that these rules "preclude either the hospital or SEIU from engaging in traditional organizational persuasion or advocacy." Continues Hyer, "In the future, I would appreciate having the opportunity to react to your unsolicited letters to Dominican employees."

Keeley says he was asked by SEIU to write a letter that reflected his views of the union. "That was my intent and I was not asked nor did I intend to suggest how people vote." While Keeley refrained from commenting about Sister Julie, saying he was going to reply to her in a separate correspondence, Downing was less diplomatic. "Hyer's letter is absurd. Nowhere in Keeley's letter are the words Dominican or CHW used, so we weren't using it to launch a corporate campaign. And the union did not give up the right to do persuasion," says Downing, adding that since Sister Julie circulated a copy of her letter attached to Keeley's throughout the hospital, "she helped serve the union's cause."

Downing believes Hyer's touchiness is the result of frustration. "Usually, management has a whole arsenal of tactics they can use against an organizing drive," he says, "but because of the neutrality agreement they no longer can say 'No' directly to the union coming in."

Even so, management does seem to have its ways. On June 22, Hyer sent out another letter, this time to Dominican employees, stating that "beginning first pay period in July, employees not governed by a union contract will receive a 5 percent increase in their hourly wage."

According to Dominican service worker Gary Jackson, "This is the first time we've been told of a raise ahead of time, and it's double our usual annual increase." Says Downing, "Putting out that memo has got service workers who are thinking of joining the union fearful. The implication is that without a union contract, management would be free to give us all these wonderful gifts, but with a union contract increases might be less."

Neither Sister Julie nor Dominican spokesperson Penny Jacobi returned Nüz' calls.

Stop the Music

Santa Cruzans sure do love their marimba. On Saturday (June 23), at about 7pm, Sadza, a local marimba band, was doing its thing in front of O'Neill's in downtown Santa Cruz when they were asked to stop by the SCPD. According to an email from eyewitness Justin Mayer, the band had only played three songs when it was asked to cease and desist. "I asked [the officer] at what point does it break the law to play music on the street," writes Mayer, "at which time he told me he had a 'simple' answer and proceeded to write down five or six ordinance numbers on his business card for me."

Wondering what ordinances these might be, Nüz called City Attorney John Barisone, who had already heard about the marimba incident from Santa Cruz City Councilmember Christopher Krohn, who was at the scene. "I'm assuming it was Ordinance 5.43020," explained Barisone. Said ordinance deals with the blocking of sidewalks by "noncommercial use."

"It is my understanding," Barisone said, "that the band had attracted a crowd of about 200 people. Such a crowd would probably have spilled into the areas where noncommercial uses are not permitted."

According to Mayer, who plays in another local marimba band, he and Krohn jumped in a rickshaw and followed the officers after they left the scene in order to find out more about the ordinance in question.

"I want a vibrant downtown," Krohn told Nüz, pointing out that where Kuzanga was playing is one of the potential plaza sites. "However, there is tension between people who live down town and the musicians. In the future, perhaps there should be lease agreements that state that a certain level of noise must be tolerated downtown. I think we should be working to create more venues for musicians, not fewer. But we do have to live together. There are other people who are adversely affected by people playing music, and I'd like for there to be a vehicle to work that out."

Chief of Police Steve Belcher, who says he gets more complaints (from merchants and residents) about there not being enough noise enforcement on Pacific Avenue rather than too much, explains that the Musicians' Association and the city came to a "verbal agreement" about 15 years ago. "If someone complains, we'll ask the musician to move on, and then they need to find another place to play," he says.

Deputy Police Chief Jeff Locke says that the "City Council wants to promote entertainment downtown, but then they place retired housing there. The two things are in conflict with one another. One person's music is another person's annoyance."

Nüz learned that a Downtown Association subcommittee, chaired by Carmella Woll of Motion Pacific and composed of about 25 business owners and managers, is brainstorming about the downtown music problem on the third Thursday of the month at Wired Wash Cafe (which decided to stop hosting live music after they were cited for not having a permit by the SCPD). Stay tuned.

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From the June 27-July 4, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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