COVID victory at county jails

NewsDecember 28, 2020

After several weeks of negotiations, NUHW members who work at county jails in Alameda, Stanislaus, and Sonoma counties reached a Memorandum of Understanding with their employer Wellpath that will better protect them from COVID-19 and provide additional financial security for anyone who contracts the virus.

“This victory demonstrates the power of solidarity,” said Josephine Garcia, a nurse at Stanislaus County Jail. “Before we formed a union, we never had the power to make Wellpath address our concerns and do the right thing. Standing together, we can protect our health and our patients’ health, improve our working conditions and win a fair contract.”

Wellpath is a private company that provides medical services for the jails and employs NUHW members, who include nurses and mental health professionals. NUHW members in Alameda and Stanislaus County have endured outbreaks in recent months, yet were denied access to testing and full access to PPE and state leaders have failed to mandate weekly testing for workers despite the fact that correctional facilities have been breeding grounds for the virus.

The Memorandum of Understanding includes the following provisions:

  • Weekly surveillance testing of 25 percent of employees at each jail, on a rotating basis. Under this plan, every worker will be tested monthly. The regular testing will begin in two weeks.
  • A guaranteed two-month extension of additional PTO for workers who contract COVID-19. If the California law requiring employers to provide 80 hours of COVID-related PTO is allowed to expire December 31, 2020, Wellpath will continue to provide the same benefit through February 28, 2021.
  • Wellpath will be required to provide notification within 24 hours of any potential COVID-19 exposure to NUHW members. 
  • Monthly labor-management meetings.
  • N95s and other PPE for all, guaranteed.

The agreement also codifies the $4 per hour hazard pay for all patient-facing employees that will be effective from December 13, 2020 through January 23, 2020.