A union effort is under way to cap the pay of the El Camino Hospital District’s top executives.
The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) launched a signature-gathering campaign Feb. 8 aimed at limiting the overall compensation packages of El Camino Hospital executives, managers and administrators. The union’s efforts began with members dispersing throughout the neighborhoods surrounding El Camino Hospital’s Mountain View campus to collect signatures.
As of Monday, nearly 8,000 signatures had been collected, according to SEIU-UHW representative Carlyn Foster.
The union is proposing a cap of no more than double the annual salary of the state’s governor. According to the Citizens Compensation Commission, Gov. Jerry Brown’s salary, which he chooses not to accept, was $173,987 in 2011.
El Camino Hospital CEO Tomi Ryba’s annual base salary is approximately $695,000, according to published reports.
Foster said the hospital’s perceived lack of transparency over how public tax dollars are spent drives the union’s effort. The hospital operates as a non-profit corporation financed by tax dollars from 1 percent of the property-tax assessments in its district (Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View and parts of Sunnyvale and Cupertino and some unincorporated areas) and funds from a bond measure voters passed in 2003.
“It’s a transparency issue that has been drawn out over the last year or two,” Foster said. “The idea here is that the tax dollars the (hospital and district) receive go back into patient care.”
She pointed to a 2010-2011 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury report that concluded the “monies of the district and of the corporation are intermingled to the extent that one cannot delineate how taxpayer contributions are spent.”
The union’s goal is to gather 14,000 signatures and submit them for verification by March 1 to qualify the initiative for a special district ballot in November, Foster said.
Hospital officials paint a different picture.
A prepared statement emailed to the Town Crier by hospital officials states that executive salaries do not come from tax dollars.
“It’s important to clarify that all employee compensation at El Camino Hospital, including that of executives, is funded solely through hospital operations and not public funds,” the statement reads. “Taxpayer funds are collected by the El Camino Hospital District, which has no employees.”
The statement added that a board-level compensation committee works with an independent executive compensation firm that provides industry benchmarks to determine executive pay at the hospital.
“El Camino Hospital stands behind the careful and methodical approach taken by our board members to determine executive compensation that is reasonable and well within the bounds of competitive practice in the not-for-profit health care industry,” according to the statement.
The signature-gathering efforts come at a time when relations between the union and the hospital remain prickly. The hospital’s board of directors declared an impasse in contract negotiations with the union last November, and voted to impose its last, best offer on hospital workers.
The offer included, among other things, a provision that requires hospital workers to contribute 10 percent of their wages toward health and dental premiums, as well as changes in shift differential pay for employees taking personal time off.