Healthcare workers at Sonoma and Stanislaus jails ratify first union contract
“It’s a new horizon,” says LVN Jessica Barron, who has worked at the Stanislaus County jail for 11 years. Barron has patiently endured the bargaining delay tactics of her employer, private equity-owned firm Wellpath, since she and her co-workers voted to join NUHW in 2020.
But workers stood strong through extended negotiations, and this month voted to ratify contracts that guarantee a minimum wage increase of 9 percent over the term of the contracts (three years in Stanislaus and 2.75 years in Sonoma). Workers also won new wage scales based on their years of service that will bring additional raises.
The contracts, which were negotiated jointly but ratified separately, also include night, PM, and holiday differentials.
“It’s exciting to close this chapter of negotiations,” Barron said. “I hope this leads the way to fair wages and employee rights and new benefits we’ve never had before.”
For Barron, another benefit of the new contract is getting to bid on the shifts she wants. Before, the employer decided. “Now it’s based on employee needs,” she said. “That makes us feel like we have a voice in the workplace.”
Dana Martin, an RN at the Sonoma County Jail, is also excited to put a “grueling” negotiating process behind her.
“Overall, we made some good strides. I’m sure there will be things we’ll need to tweak in the future, but this is a good working document,” she said.
Martin is probably most excited about the pay raises that will reward “those who have been here and stuck it out for a long time” without receiving any salary hikes. Martin has worked at the jail for six years.
In the past, Wellpath only gave raises to organizing workers as a union-busting tactic. Raises were inconsistent and did not include all the workers. The new contracts guarantee transparency.
“Now, everybody can see what they’re going to make and at what point they’re due for a raise,” said Martin.
“The contract looks out for everyone and establishes some ground rules, which we never had before,” she noted. “It gives us protections and gives us certainty of what our pay is going to be. Everybody is excited about that.”