A life-changing contract at Fountain Valley

September 29th, 2021

What a difference a fair contract makes.

“Everyone’s very happy,” said Connie Montesano, a lab technician at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital, where workers recently won a contract that includes substantial pay increases and improved safety protocols. 

After more than a year of bargaining and worker actions, NUHW members signed a three-year contract — their second since forming a union — with Tenet Healthcare covering more than 600 workers at Fountain Valley. The contract includes a wage scale based on experience that has lifted wages by an average of 15 percent this month. 

Not worried about rent anymore

Christina Rodriguez, a respiratory technician, who has worked at Fountain Valley for 18 years, is one of many longtime workers who will benefit the most after years of making less than recently hired colleagues. 

An NUHW steward at the hospital who was deeply involved in the contract negotiations, Rodriguez cried when she saw her new paycheck. 

“It’s a huge difference,” said Rodriguez, who works the night shift, where the new contract raises pay from $2 to $4.10 per hour. Including the shift differential, her pay increased by 31 percent.  

For years, she trained new hires who received higher pay than she did — as much as $7 more per hour — while she struggled to make ends meet. Her biggest worry was always rent. She pays $2,160 a month for a two-bedroom apartment near the hospital. 

“I was always worried about the rent. I had one check for rent and one check for everything else,” says Rodriguez. She always cut back on groceries, made sure things were on sale, used an antenna for her television rather than pay for cable, and worried how she would cover costs should her car break down or her dogs get sick. 

When money got tight, she had to go to her mother-in-law for a loan. “It was embarrassing,” said Rodriguez.

Her paycheck under the new contract gives her some breathing room. 

“I had enough money to pay my rent and had money left over,” Rodriguez said. “If this contract hadn’t gone through, I was seriously thinking I would have to move. There was no way I could have saved another $75 or $100 to continue to live here. It would have just been impossible,” she adds. “Now I don’t ever have to worry about my rent again. I can stay here.”

She used a little bit of that leftover money to buy some See’s Candies, a special treat growing up because her mother would only buy them on Easter. It was a celebratory purchase she couldn’t have indulged in before without counting pennies. 

“We so enjoyed ourselves,” she said. “We were like kids in a candy store.”