LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — More than 900 healthcare and support workers will take part in a one-day strike at Keck Hospital of USC Wednesday over salaries and benefits.

Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, including respiratory therapists, surgery technicians, unit secretaries, and environmental services and facilities engineers, began picketing at 6 a.m., and plan to stage a rally at noon.

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The union contends some workers are being paid “poverty wages and inadequate benefits,” saying some of its members qualify for food stamps and other forms of public assistance. It claims that one of every six union workers at the hospital earns less than $15 an hour, and some earn just $10.15 an hour.

Hospital officials say that a number of the workers taking part in the strike are not employed by Keck, but by contractor Sodexo.

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“Administrators are giving themselves 30 percent raises and paying consultants thousands of dollars a day to tell them how to cut corners on patient care, while caregivers are getting nickel-and-dimed,” said Alex Corea, a respiratory therapist.

The union also contends workers are not offered the same retirement plan provided for other USC employees.

Hospital officials said the union has rejected its wage proposals and is demanding education benefits “not available to any other represented group within the Keck Health System.” Hospital officials stressed that the disagreements with the union are over “economic issues” and unrelated to patient care and safety.

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