At 8 a.m. this morning, employees at VCA San Francisco Veterinary Specialists took themselves for a walk. 

Several dozen aspirational union workers walked out of work for an hour to call attention to what they say are the company’s unfair labor practices. The roughly 100 workers at the animal hospital formed a union last year and have been in contract negotiations that they say have dragged on longer than necessary. Official unfair labor practice charges this year filed with the National Labor Relations Board charge that the company has not been bargaining with the workers in good faith, as required by law.

“We all discussed it and decided to walk out together,” said Katy Bradley, a veterinary assistant at the facility on 18th and Alabama. “At 8 a.m. we just sort of tag-teamed each other to say, ‘hey, you know, it’s time.’”

Multiple workers said that almost every union worker participated in the walkout, which they said also served as a show of unity. “It makes everybody feel stronger to walk out together,” said Bradley. “It’s scary, but we’re all together and we’re going to keep fighting this battle together.”

Laura Territo, a registered veterinary technician, said the mood was positive outside as workers marched and chanted. “It was a good atmosphere, it was very supportive,” she said. “We’re trying to raise the bar in this profession.”

 

Today’s dispute was specifically in response to VCA assigning supervisors do work that is supposed to be done by members of the union. This practice can cost the union jobs, and labor law requires the company to negotiate with the union before making changes like this.

The National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint two weeks ago saying that the union’s charge against the company has merit. According to the complaint, VCA “has been failing and refusing to bargain collectively in good faith with the exclusive collective-bargaining representative of its employees,” violating the National Labor Relations Act. 

“They’re trying to diminish the workforce and frustrate them,” said Agustin Ramirez, a staff member with the ILWU, the larger union the workers at VCA are affiliated with. “Workers are fed up with them breaking the law.” 

The NLRB is a federal body with members appointed by the president that behaves similarly to a court specifically to judge labor disputes. The board will conduct a hearing in September before making a final determination, unless the charge is settled before then.

A flyer handed out by workers during their walkout also complained of other issues at the animal hospital, including “short staffing with inadequate training” that affects the care they provide to their patients.

“We still want to do our jobs,” said Territo. “But we’re growing tired of the lack of bargaining in good faith. We wanted to get their attention.”

VCA is a Los Angeles-based chain of hundreds of animal hospitals that employs tens of thousands of workers and collects billions of dollars in revenue. In 2017, the company was bought by Mars, the makers of candies like Snickers and of the dog food brand Pedigree, for about $9 billion.

According to public filings with the US Department of Labor, VCA spent more than $200,000 on “labor relations consultants” last year, a term that usually refers to consultants hired during a union campaign to dissuade workers from organizing. The company had not responded to Mission Local’s request for comment at press time.

Workers said they will continue to take action to persuade VCA to bargain a contract with them in good faith. “You have to stick up for yourself,” said Bradley. “You can’t just take this abuse.”

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  1. Hey LVT…..do some research about VCA/Mars. Check reddit.com search VCA and see what veterinary technicians really think about them. People who are compassionate about what they do will work for subpar companies and even more subpar managers cause they love their careers. I applaud these workers and the workers at the other 3 hospitals who have unionized.

  2. LVT? Is that for Licensed Veterinary Technician? The workers of SFVS walked out for an hour! It was a walkout for an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP)…..Google it. The workers like where they work and do a lot for the pets and the people who love them. The workers do want a livable wage yes, but also they are in need of greater staffing levels, staff retention and better benefits. While your on Google, look up the Mars Corporation and VCA. If your initials do stand for Licensed Veterinary Technician then you would most likely understand what support staff in the veterinary industry do on a daily basis. The workers don’t have many choices in ER/Specialty practices in San Francisco as VCA/Mars has monopolized this industry. They’ve monopolized it so much that they could actually make a difference. They need to drop the “do more with less” attitude. I’m sure the workers have thought about your suggestion of getting out. For some it’s not that easy! I’m also sure that the workers don’t appreciate your attitude. However you know what they say about opinions…..
    Cheers!

  3. I’m sorry but this doesn’t look like Non organize protest if they’re coming out with flyers and sign while they’re walking out it is very much organized
    With all due respect to all the people that work in the hospital if you are not happy with your employer you have many other opportunities today go and find another job but making the animals that you supposed to care for wait for you to come back from your walk to protest that is just unacceptable.
    Do not make your patient suffer because you want more money, that is not what this profession is all about.

    1. LVT, are you a paid shill? Or worse, are you part of VCA management? Maybe your IP address tracks back to VCA, which I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case. Seems like you support Mars’ exploitation of BOTH the workers and the pets so they can maximize profits. If you wore the shoes of one of these workers for one moment, maybe you would understand that making $16 an hour in a city like San Francisco is unacceptable. Just because workers are able to find other jobs does not excuse VCA from delaying or ignoring the union contract. My pug is a customer of this VCA because we really enjoy the attentiveness and caring of these workers everything we come. Many work here because of their love for pets, but they still need to earn a livable wage. Or else, how can they even help these beloved pets?

    2. I am one of the workers that walked out for that hour, 8am-9am. There were at least half a dozen management people, several interns and doctors in the hospital during our one hour walk out. We do everything for our patients and would NEVER compromise their care. It sounds like you work for a pretty perfect hospital that takes impeccable care of their employees. It’s nice to know there’s one out there.

    1. Mars Petcare U.S. manufactures popular dog and cat foods such as IAMS, Pedigree, Royal Canin, Sheba, Eukanuba, Cesar, Whiskas, Greenies, and Nutro