For Immediate Release: Saturday, December 19, 2020
CONTACT: Terry Carter, (805) 312-0024
Union Nurses & Licensed Healthcare Professionals make history with new pandemic safety guarantees in their union contract at
—Los Robles Regional Medical Center— —Riverside Community Hospital— —West Hills Hospital & Medical Center—
Pasadena, CA–Registered Nurses and Licensed Medical Professionals at three Hospital Corporation of America facilities across the Southland have reached a tentative contract agreement that members at all three facilities will vote on in the coming days.
Registered Nurses and other hospital staff sought improved staffing levels, better access to PPE, more testing and better quarantine policies. This is part of a long arc of Nurses leading the way (over decades) to ensure patient and Nurse safety. Union Nurses have pushed for everything from AIDS treatment to needle safety to workplace violence prevention to safe staffing levels. And they are determined to take the lead during this pandemic.
After the Nurses and Licensed Professionals at all three hospitals overwhelmingly voted to authorize their Bargaining Team to call a strike if necessary, the two sides brought in a federal mediator and held a week of marathon bargaining. Since Friday, December 11, the sides logged 102 hours in round-the-clock negotiations.
“I’ve been on the Bargaining Team before, but this time it feels like we made history,” said Kerry Cavazos, a Nurse at Riverside Community, and Chapter President of the Union at the hospital. “We were able to get some strong pandemic safety guarantees in our Union contract—we may be one of the first healthcare unions in the country to get such strong language in our contract. Nurses and Licensed Professionals were willing to strike for this—even during a pandemic—to make sure our hospitals are better prepared for public health crises.”
Notable in the language Union members won is a guarantee to immediately sit down to discuss and bargain over the hospitals’ planned response within two weeks of a declared public health emergency.
“That one is pretty huge,” said Yolanda Tominac, a Nurse at West Hills and a member of the Bargaining team. “Back in early February when we were worried COVID-19 would reach pandemic proportions, we asked the hospital for its emergency plans and what kind of PPE they had on hand. They were very reluctant to give us any information and even more reluctant to let those of us on the front lines make our recommendations. In this new contract, they agree to meet with us within two weeks of a declared emergency—face to face with us.”
Also now guaranteed in contract language: in the event of a public health emergency, the hospitals will provide all PPE as required by laws and regulations.
The contract includes a commitment to hire dozens of RNs at each hospital to ensure staff can safely take rest and meal breaks.
Also notable: this is the first Union contract for Licensed Healthcare Professionals at Los Robles. The 120 Pharmacists, Clinical Laboratory Scientists, Physical, Speech and Occupational Therapists, Social Workers and Dieticians formed their Union in December of last year.
“We won some important guarantees in this contract,” said Julia Geran, an Occupational Therapist there. “We’ll now have better access to the proper equipment and to COVID testing and safe quarantine policies. We also now have all the other contractual guarantees that the Nurses have.”
“This Bargaining Team did a phenomenal job of staying focused and strong,” said the Union’s Executive Director Rosanna Mendez. “Not only are they risking their lives every day to fight this disease, they also stood up and insisted that this big corporation listen to the health and safety recommendations of the trained professionals on the front lines.”
In September, Nurses introduced their Pandemic Safety Platform, vowing to use their collective voice to advocate for improved safety protocols during the coronavirus pandemic—and noting that they felt betrayed by their hospitals as well as public health agencies. They vowed to use all the tools they have to continue to take the lead on making hospitals and our healthcare system safer for patients and staff—their contract bargaining tables, grievance processes, Labor-Management and other joint committees, passage of new state and federal laws and regulations, the enforcement of existing laws through agency complaints, public actions like this summer’s 10-day Safe Staffing strike at Riverside Community Hospital, and Union Stewards.
Union members at the three hospitals will hold a contract ratification vote December 22 and 23.
SEIU Local 121RN represents registered nurses and other healthcare professionals in California. This member-led organization is committed to supporting optimum working conditions that allow nurses to provide quality patient care and safety.