2021: A year of legislative and labor victories
NUHW members – who’ve been on the frontlines of the worst global health crisis in modern history – achieved major workplace and legislative victories in 2021. Over the past 12 months, we’ve passed a statewide mental health parity bill, forced hospitals to improve working conditions and patient care, and also helped defeat a recall effort against Governor Newsom.
After a year of unimaginable pain and loss, NUHW members confronted even harder challenges in 2021 as the year began with California’s most deadly COVID-19 surge. Caregivers valiantly responded to skyrocketing patient demand, often working through breaks and doing double shifts to help patients and support the community.
Holding employers accountable
While hospital owners offered platitudes, hanging banners that read “Heroes Work Here,” NUHW members demanded that hospitals take measures to keep them and their patients safe and to honor their commitment with fair contracts that guaranteed safe staffing. Through strong bargaining, vigilant documentation of safety violations, pickets and strikes, NUHW members won battles that will improve the lives of workers and patients in 2022.
Our victories included:
- COVID-related safety measures at multiple facilities, including San Francisco Post Acute, West Anaheim Medical Center, and Fountain Valley Regional Hospital, where NUHW members secured temporary hazard pay to bolster staffing during the worst weeks of the surge.
- Double-digit wage increases for more than 800 workers at the following Tenet Healthcare hospitals: Fountain Valley Regional Hospital, Lakewood, Medical Center and Los Alamitos Medical Center.
- Raises ranging from 11 to 39 percent for more than 1,500 NUHW members at Keck Hospital of USC, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, several university clinics, and a university call center. The workers also won health safeguards that include requiring that Keck USC maintain a three-month stockpile of PPE and guarantee appropriate PPE for caregivers treating highly-infectious patients.
- A contract at Richmond Area Multi-Services that marked the first time our members fought for and won Junteenth as a paid holiday.
- New contracts at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, Kindred therapists in Santa Cruz, Los Angeles LGBT Center, California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, Kindred hospitals in Orange County, San Diego and the Bay Area, Dominican Hospital’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center in Santa Cruz, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, Novato Healthcare Center, The Sequoias-Portola Valley, and at San Rafael Healthcare and Wellness Center.
Though some of these contract victories protect our members for four years, others are only secured for one year, forcing members to renew their fight for longer-term agreements in 2022.
Winning Parity for mental health care
This year, we took the lead in sponsoring a landmark bill that will require all insurers to provide follow-up mental health care therapy appointments within 10 business days. At Kaiser Permanente, where we represent 4,000 mental health clinicians, patients must often endure waits of up to three months between appointments. Our bill, SB 221, passed the State Assembly by a vote of 76-0, and the State Senate by a final vote of 35-1, before being signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom.
Now, Kaiser clinicians are fighting for contracts that will ensure that Kaiser follows the law, starting with hiring more staff to provide better access for patients.
Recovering lost pay
When Kaiser violated our contract, costing workers more than $500,000 in lost holiday pay, NUHW stewards quickly filed a grievance and forced Kaiser to provide back pay to the nearly 1,200 members that were impacted.
Stewards also forced Wellpath to reimburse workers at Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County a combined $44,900 after the subcontractor charged workers for a disability benefit for which California residents are not eligible.
A win at the ballot box
NUHW members also helped defeat the recall effort against Governor Newsom.
The momentum grows
We’ve shown how a strong union can protect workers and patients during a public health crisis, and workers are taking notice. Nearly 200 workers recently joined NUHW in October following organizing drives at Sutter Psych Center in Sacramento and Seton Medical Center in Daly City, and we have several more organizing elections scheduled for January.
There will be many new challenges ahead in 2022, but NUHW members have shown that they are committed to winning the best contracts and standing up for each other and their patients.