Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital Workers Win Contract with Raises and No Concessions

NewsJanuary 27, 2012

Hospital Board voted unanimously to approve Tentative Agreement

Salinas, California – Today, the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve a Tentative Agreement between hospital management and 750 caregivers who belong to the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). With that vote, NUHW members at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (SVMH) won a union contract after well over a year of bargaining.

Though the employer had insisted throughout the duration of negotiations on over $16 million worth of concessions, including the elimination of workers’ defined benefit pension plan, an increase in health insurance costs, a wage freeze, a reduction in vacation days and sick leave, elimination of a ban on subcontracting, an extension of the probationary period for new hires and many more takeaways, workers succeeded in settling a contract with not a single concession and with wage increases from 3.25 to 18.25 percent over the term of the contract.

SVMH caregivers achieved this remarkable success by staying united through a period of extraordinary turbulence and confrontation at the worksite and in the Salinas community at large.

For the last two years, workers at SVMH have been engaged in a protracted and at times bruising public battle with the hospital’s Board of Directors to save their jobs and preserve their wages and benefits.

In May of 2010, hundreds of SVMH workers voted to bolt the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and join NUHW in response to SEIU’s failure to provide adequate representation at the worksite and at the bargaining table.

After being officially certified as NUHW members that October, SVMH caregivers mobilized to resist mass layoffs and benefit cuts. When the hospital’s Board of Directors hired outside management consultants to advise them on streamlining operations in preparation for a possible sale or merger of the public district hospital, NUHW members responded by pointing to the hospital’s payment of over $5 million to its outgoing CEO in an unusual severance agreement that became a national news story and that prompted a state audit of SVMH finances. 

Last fall, workers engaged in a one-day strike and were locked out by management for three days.  

Even while NUHW members resisted management’s proposed takeaways, more SVMH workers voted to join NUHW. In January of 2011, 67 formerly non-union technical workers petitioned to become NUHW members and joined their co-workers to fight for a fair contract.

Earlier this week, SVMH workers voted by 388 to 1 to ratify the Tentative Agreement.

NUHW members at SVMH include Respiratory Care Practitioners, Licensed Vocational Nurses, Certified Nursing Assistants, Dietary workers, Clerical employees, Laboratory Technicians, Diagnostic Imaging Technologists and other job classifications.