Efforts of NUHW Members at SVMH Result in Passage of New California Law
Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB130, a bill sponsored by Salinas -area Assemblyman Luis Alejo, which will prevent public district hospitals from paying retirement benefits to hospital executives while they are still working. This bill was the culmination of a 3 year effort by NUHW members at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (SVMH) to make sure that hospital executives at public district hospitals, like Salinas Valley, don’t unjustly enrich themselves at the expense of patients and workers. NUHW, along with the California Nurses Association, were leaders among a small number of unions who publicly supported the Alejo reform bill.
“This legislation is a straightforward approach to prevent pension double-dipping problems and overly generous retirement benefit promises,” Alejo said. “This new law will improve the transparency and accountability for the policies that healthcare districts implement to manage the retirement benefits of their top executives.”
In April 2010, workers at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital voted overwhelmingly to leave SEIU-UHW and join NUHW. In the 2 years following the forced takeover of their local by SEIU, SVMH executives gave themselves as many as eight separate retirements plans while laying off dozens of frontline healthcare workers with no opposition from SEIU.
In addition to strong united membership action, including informational pickets and a one-day strike, NUHW conducted extensive research into the financial practices of the hospital and its executives, the exposure of which laid the foundation for this legislation. Articles in the LA Times, Salinas Californian, and Monterey Herald brought public attention to the issues.
Assemblymember Alejo was instrumental in helping NUHW expose the financial irregularities and played a significant role in helping to mediate a resolution to the collective bargaining agreement at SVMH. AB 130 follows another piece of legislation that Assemblymember Alejo shepherded into law earlier this year, AB 2180, which requires public district hospital to disclose benefits that it provides executives if they are different than the benefits other hospital employees receive.
The new legislation proves once again that when workers join a union that is willing to stand up, patients and workers benefit.
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