Contract protects workers’ wages and benefits even as public hospital faces financial challenges
San Pablo, California – Workers at Doctors Medical Center San Pablo have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement by a vote of 125 to 9. The new contract leaves workers’ wages and benefits whole, containing no concessions even at a time of financial difficulty for the hospital.
“The hospital is struggling, and we’re going to do everything we can to help find more funding for it,” said Miriam Sutherland, an Ultrasonographer at Doctors San Pablo. “But our first priority was to make sure that those who provide care to patients were protected. That’s exactly what we accomplished as members of a worker-controlled union that fights for its members.”
In 2009, workers at Doctors San Pablo became the first Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members to vote to leave SEIU and join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). Despite having been rejected by a 7 to 1 margin, SEIU contested the election results for a year and a half, until the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) dismissed SEIU’s charges in December 2010.
Prior to the PERB’s certification of the election, while workers were represented by SEIU, management proposed cuts to workers’ benefits to offset declining revenues. In response, SEIU took no action to protect workers’ livelihoods for close to two years. SEIU’s submissiveness in the face of threats to its members’ economic well-being fits a pattern of inertia and resignation by SEIU officials as public sector workers represented by SEIU have come under attack throughout the state and country.
By contrast, NUHW members are vigorously resisting layoffs and benefit cuts at public hospitals like Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. At Doctors San Pablo, management took its concessionary proposals off the table after workers joined NUHW, understanding that unlike SEIU, NUHW was prepared to engage in a protracted fight to protect members’ wages, benefits and working conditions.
Recognizing the hospital’s financial challenges, workers negotiated a one year contract with no concessions and a wage reopener in February 2012.
NUHW represents about 350 workers at Doctors San Pablo, including Respiratory Care Practitioners, Licensed Vocational Nurses, Certified Nursing Assistants, Radiology Technologists, Housekeepers and Dietary workers.