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Monday, September 27, 2021

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News + PoliticsThe problem with Zuckerberg/Wells Fargo Hospital

The problem with Zuckerberg/Wells Fargo Hospital

Are we rewarding companies that do questionably ethical research and kick people out of their homes? Some workers think so

I just spent an hour with the nurses and their allies at a rally in front of Zuckerberg General Hospital, near Wells Fargo Plaza. The nurses, members of SEIU Local 1021, are protesting staffing levels, saying the brand new facility hasn’t hired enough trained clinical workers to provide adequate patient care.

Nurses and their allies rally for adequate staffing levels at SF General
Nurses and their allies rally for adequate staffing levels at SF General

“Although San Francisco is on the verge of opening a new hospital building, there’s an ongoing and unaddressed need to assign appropriate levels of caregivers to patients,” the union says. “Nurses can often go an entire shift without access to the rest and meal breaks that are required by California’s signature safe RN staffing law.”

It’s kind of crazy –we are putting all this money into a shiny new facility, and we can’t hire enough staff to make it safe for workers and patients?

Some of the nurses are also upset that a hospital that was largely paid for with taxpayer money, through a very large bond act, is now named after the founder of Facebook and part of the grounds bears the name of Wells Fargo Bank.

Sasha Cuttler, an RN and union member who wrote about this for 48hills, told me that he doesn’t like the idea of selling the name of a public hospital – but he has a larger concern. See, Facebook has been doing research on users, in fact, Facebook data was used for a major study on “emotional contagion” – that is, whether “emotional states can be transferred to others …. leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness.”

In the study, the researchers (with the cooperation, of course, of Facebook) messed with the news feeds of 689,000 Facebook users to see if it could manipulate their emotions. At the time, the prestigious journal said the whole thing was perfectly fine, since when people sign up for Facebook, the terms of use (which nobody ever reads) allows this type of research to be conducted without informing the users or seeking their consent.

But in academia, this sort of thing is frowned on, deeply. And in fact, the PNAS has since posted a “Statement of Concern,” noting that

Obtaining informed consent and allowing participants to opt out are best practices in most instances under the US Department of Health and Human Services Policy for the Protection of Human Research Subjects (the “Common Rule”). Adherence to the Common Rule is PNAS policy, but as a private company Facebook was under no obligation to conform to the provisions of the Common Rule when it collected the data used by the authors, and the Common Rule does not preclude their use of the data. Based on the information provided by the authors, PNAS editors deemed it appropriate to publish the paper. It is nevertheless a matter of concern that the collection of the data by Facebook may have involved practices that were not fully consistent with the principles of obtaining informed consent and allowing participants to opt out.

And now Facebook is continuing to use its systems, including new emojis, to track the emotions of users. Which is a little creepy.

“Does naming a research hospital for Mark Zuckerberg seem like a reward for engaging in unethical research?” Cuttler asked.

Then I met Yolanda Herron, who works in the Records Dept. at General (which is what I will continue to call the hospital that my tax dollars paid for), and she told me that she’s horrified that every day she has to walk by Wells Fargo Plaza to go to work.

Yolanda Herron lost her house to Wells Fargo, and now has to walk by the Wells Fargo Plaza at her workplace every day
Yolanda Herron lost her house to Wells Fargo, and now has to walk by the Wells Fargo Plaza at her workplace every day

Wells Fargo took her house in Oakley during the foreclosure crisis, she said. “The sent me to eight different agents,” she said. Over a period of six months, they kept changing the rules, asking for different documents, then foreclosed anyway. It’s a common story.

“It really hurts,” the 26-year city employee said. “It’s like I can’t get rid of Wells Fargo.”

Yes: Zuckerberg and Wells gave money to the hospital. If this nation had even remotely reasonable tax policies, none of that would be necessary – Zuckerberg and Wells Fargo would pay enough taxes to fund public needs, like SF General. Instead, we beg them for money and reward them for doing what they should have done anyway.

And we make some of the workers at their hospital sick just thinking about it.

Sasha Cuttler stands by Wells Fargo Plaza
Sasha Cuttler stands by Wells Fargo Plaza

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. You did NOT pay for your own retirement. You have a defined-benefit pension plan with a guaranteed return…even if you have to dip into the general fund, and take money away from schools, in order to get your money. Pension reform needed.

  2. People who work for California Public Institutions are made aware that their salaries are public when they sign a contract to work for them.

  3. I’m well aware of that, but we were talking about Facebook, data mining, and manipulation of users. This is unethical and reflects poorly on the mindset of those who did it.

    If a government agency did this we would be up in arms. If academic researchers did this without consent they would probably lose their jobs.

  4. I deserve no more than I earned same for Yolanda. the problem is that Yolanda’s union, along with all the other public employee unions, have helped elect politicians who negotiate contracts that pay union members more than they have earned, more than they pay in and more than the state can afford. When the bill finally comes due, guess who will have to pay it? hint…it won’t be Yolanda.

  5. Anything you post on the internet is immediately out of your control. If you don’t want it out there, don’t post it. My 9 year old knows that!

  6. No you don’t Nancy. You pay into a pension, but in all likelihood you’ll take out a lot more when all is said and done. The taxpayer will make up the difference. Public sector workers are bankrupting the State. A cop or a fire fighter can start work at 25, retire at 50, and after all the spiking that goes on, take home over 100% of their highest ever paycheck every month. They could be taking that pension for 30 o4 40 years and if they have a younger spouse with survivor benefits we could be talking 50 or 60 years of payouts for just 25 years of paying in. I know SEIU 1021 members don’t get that crazy unsustainable 3% at 50 plan, but yours isn’t sustainable either. You take out more than you pay in.

  7. I, also, as a retired member of the City and County of SF and proud member of SEIU, paid for my own retirement out of my paycheck – public sector workers are NOT the enemy

  8. Yes I care. We’ve been robbed by Wall Street and we continue to be robbed by public employee unions and the politicians they support. One is as bad as the other. Do you agree?

  9. If you don’t trust these callow unworldly entrepreneurs don’t post your whole life on their servers.

  10. The homeless problem is not entirely the fault of the homeless. Poor health resulting from the lack of universal access to health care available throughout Europe, lack of marketable skills after we’ve shipped our factory jobs overseas for the benefit of multi-national corporations, the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program(s) which has turned housing into an inflated asset class available to any foreign buyer without residency or citizenship requirements (unlike the rest of the world which gives preference to its own people), monetary manipulation to inflate/reflate the price of housing to specifically improve the too-big-to-fail banks’ profits and balance sheets, thereby debasing the money supply and increasing the cost of living, NIMBYism by home owners to limit home construction (zoning restrictions, height limitations), political corruption responsive to commercial interests ($100m tax giveaways and excessive commercial development), Obama’s shovel ready stimulus windfall for S.F. which beautified our streets and parks and doubled the value of homes here, and Congress’ special $250,000 for individuals/half-million-for-couples capital gains tax exemption for home owners from the sale of their properties. If homeowners can’t triple their money by getting rid of the homeless, they’ll just have to settle for double. But we have plenty of free money for the Olympics when a better run city like Boston doesn’t. I doubt much of our money actually reaches the homeless. Why else would they be pushing around shopping carts collecting empty cans and bottles because they want to be an eyesore? BTW, medical tourism is S.F.’s number one industry.

  11. Most of us do not have political connections like the SEIU that can arm-twist politicians into submission. Suzanne digs pay-to-play politics. I call the salary-outing here constructive criticism, not whining.

  12. Sunshine is a bitch, isn’t it? The common misconception (repeated again above) that private-sector workers make more than public-sector workers needs to be dispelled always.

    Obviously, public-sector workers have much higher salaries. And they retire (on average) at age 58 with pensions equivalent to 80% of their final pay. (So around $90 a year for one of the employees outed above.)
    I wouldn’t mind at all, except for the fact that a lot of this money should be going straight into the classroom, infrastructure, etc., instead of into the pension pot.. The high salaries and pensions are the the reason that SF city gov. is terminally in the red.
    In any case, the pension giveaway will lead to bankruptcy some day unless we have reform (like Jeff Adachi once promoted and the SEIU killed his political career for).

  13. Am I the only one who is shocked that there is a website where you can look up the salary information of individuals? Is there no respect for privacy anymore? Do the people who work for public institutions in California even know that their income information is open for everyone to see? I understand that some people have concerns about public spending, but for a website to post the income details of honest working people is appalling.

  14. Prove this story follows any logical progression of thinking. That absurd connecting of dots is a fabrication.
    Hell, prove this SEIU worker grievance has ANYTHING to do with Zuckerberg or Wells Fargo. You sure as hell can’t prove Wells acted wrongly in their foreclosure. But you’re predisposed to.

  15. Well, it’s around the corner. The people hanging out outside are almost all in front of the southern face of the building. The “plaza” (it’s a stretch to even call it that) is in front of the western entrance to the main lobby, where the information desk and gift shop are.

  16. I totally agree staffing levels need to be adjusted. If you open a new building and therefore expand your services, you need to staff it. But I’m not going to bash Mark and Wells Fargo. Their generosity helped the Department of Public Health buy amazing equipment. Think about the patients — all poor and uninsured — who will get care comparable to what the wealthy get. That’s pretty awesome. And geez, it’s just a name. It’s not like Mark will be running the hospital.

  17. If it as big of a PITA as you say, I would guess they’d be bankrupt about now…..maybe you should give them a loan…..make sure you make the terms as such that they can afford them.

  18. Wells Fargo was a Predatory Lender. They paid fines for doing so…..many people lost their homes due to them. I myself, lost my home from a predatory lender.

  19. I used to work there. I would hardly find comfort in sitting out there. And if you say it is next to the ER….. SFGH ER one of the busiest ER’s I’ve worked at in my nursing career…..when I was there there were patients outside all the time. They must not like it much either.

  20. And you don’t care one darn bit about what Wall St. is raking in and the bonuses that were handed out after we (the Taxpayers bailed them out.) That doesn’t bother you!!!!

  21. This is so unlikely…..what percentages are you going by and what time period????? Maybe you ought to forget being jealous and whining about this public worker and go work on Wall Street!!!!

  22. Not buying it. We bail out Wall St. with all our tax dollars (Corporate Welfare to the MAX) and you are all up in arms about a home owner.

  23. It takes political connections…..please do tell…..until then, go get the public job you are so jealous about and stop the whining.

  24. You do deserve more….. and what Yolanda has made she earned and deserves. To criticize her for her work over corporations that sold predatory loans and then get awarded their name on public hospitals is a despicable act. This is about corporate greed and also about unconsented social experiments by corporations.

  25. Can you not read….she’s worked 26 yrs. (NOT 26YEARS OLD)!!! Stop the judgement!!!! I was a nurse at that very hospital in the late 80’s early 90’s and the work is very hard, the staff are extremely dedicated. Your simplification of situation is sickening, as is what is happening to SFGH!!!

  26. So Sasha is a HE, and his responsibilities go above nursing. He had his RN and and PhD.

    But continue to fret because that will improve your lot in life.

  27. The problem is there ARE legit stories out there that deserve press and outrage …. we just keep getting these fabricated stories instead.

  28. Wait, so Facebook is studying the phenomenon of “empathy”, amongst other basic human emotions and by extension that means Zuckerberg’s naming rights will include run of the hospital for similar purposes? Huh? And that has what to do with SEIU’s claim of worker violations with nurses?

    SEIU cries wolf about everything unless it furthers their own positioning, so can someone explain why they’re using these nurses to attack the practice of naming rights? Did they do the same for Marc Benioff, and I just missed it?

  29. Salary is less? really? check your facts. The other nurse quoted in the article is making $170,000. I’d love a fat paying job in the public sector but I don’t have the right political connections.

  30. Then get a job in the public sector. The salary is usually less and the pension costs to you will go up over the next few years.

  31. I don’t care how you chop up her compensation. Those of us not working in the public sector and not represented by SEIU have to pay for our retirement out of our paycheck and we don’t get overtime when we stay after 5pm. She makes $110,000 a year.

  32. Exactly! those of us who aren’t lucky enough to have a big public pension have to put aside money every month to save for our retirement AND pay the bills. Yolanda puts away a comparative pittance, the taxpayer (that’s you and me) will eventually have to bail our her underfunded pension fund, and we still have to listen to her bellyache that the bank took her house…I bet the Mercedes dealership took her coupe too, and Best Buy took back the 65 inch TV, and Nieman Marcus cut off her card.

  33. Well her salary was only $82K but if the $27K in benefits covered retirement and medical then it adds to her free cash flow that could have gone into paying the mortgage.

    Every week on 48 Hills there seems to be a story about somebody being victimized after they fall behind on their payments and in each case there are head scratching questions such as yours. We never hear about any bad judgement by the homeowner; it’s always the bank’s fault.

  34. Foreclosures are a major PITA for banks both from a financial and PR standpoint. They don’t want to own a home that will then be sold at distressed prices.

    And I’m not sure if I’ve read any mortgage contracts that say “The bank shall re-negotiate mortgage terms if the borrower finds the existing terms difficult”.

  35. I want to know how the hell you get foreclosed on a house in Oakley when you are pulling down $110,000!! Whats the median house price out there? $300,000? even with zero down that’s a monthly mortgage payment of less than $1,500!

  36. Sorry, but I know a few people who share the same story: Wells was supposed to re-negotiate mortgage terms and did not do so in good faith.

  37. Explain that to the thousands of local residents and businesses who went to Wells Fargo when they needed a loan. Its unfortunate that Ms Herron fell behind on her payments but there are many others who did not and are therefore homeowners today. I’m sure that when Ms Herron was keeping up on her payments that her opinion of Wells Fargo was more positive.

    This concept that anyone with money should spend it where we want them to and they should not expect any appreciation for doing so is something out of Kindergarten 101. Fortunately most people are more realistic and open minded.

  38. the article stated that she had worked at the hospital for 26 years – not that she was 26 years old; and, are you certain this employee was being paid a nurses’ salary – in your zeal to defame her, you overlooked some facts

  39. What does that have to do with this story? And total pay of $82,581 in San Francisco AFTER overtime is not that much money.

  40. Wells Fargo took her house in Oakley during the foreclosure crisis, she
    said. “The [SIC] sent me to eight different agents,” she said. Over a period
    of six months, they kept changing the rules, asking for different
    documents, then foreclosed anyway. It’s a common story.”

    Yolanda had a nice pay package of $110K last year. Pretty good for a 26-year-old (and nice overtime deal!). She can afford to use some of that money to pay down her ‘s loan debt:
    Regular pay:

    Overtime pay:

    Other pay:

    Total pay:

    Total benefits:

    Total pay & benefits:

  41. Sounds like Sour Grapes. Most nurses would be thrilled that a public hospital was on the receiving end of that much generosity.

  42. It would be interesting to know whether Facebook was even aware of informed consent rules for peer-reviewed data when it opened its computers to the researchers. This kind of stuff is really creepy and shows what happens when highly successful but still callow and unworldly entrepreneurs use their vast wealth to dabble in social research. It also hints at the immense power they have over our social system.

  43. I get the objection, but that Wells Fargo Plaza sign is almost unnoticeable, and hardly anybody ever hangs out there anyway. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone even sitting on the benches… which is kind of weird since it’s right next to the ER and general medicine clinic and pharmacy.

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