Seton workers win fight against hedge fund, secure strong three-year contract

NewsNovember 16, 2016

NUHW members at Seton Medical Center and Seton Coastside voted by ninety-eight percent on November 9 and November 10 to ratify a three-year contract that provides strong worker protections, economic improvements, and good benefits. The agreement guarantees caregivers three percent wage increases each year during the life of the contract, including market adjustments for job classifications that are well below other area hospitals.

The agreement also includes none of the takeaways that SEIU agreed to at other California hospitals owned by same company, New York hedge fund BlueMountain Capital Management and its Verity Health System. Among the drastic takeaways that NUHW members successfully fought were reductions in paid time off and severance pay, a higher hour threshold for part-time employees and benefits eligibility, and the elimination of past practices, extended sick leave, education leave, and jury duty pay.

Seton leaders achieved this victory by waging a multifaceted campaign both inside and outside the hospital to educate and reach out to hospital employees, elected officials, and the larger community. Almost a year ago, BlueMountain took over Seton’s operations after striking a deal with Daughters of Charity, the seven-hospital Catholic healthcare system that has run Seton Medical Center for nearly a century.

Seton workers can credit their victory to a high level of member engagement during the contract campaign. A large delegation of members delivered a petition to the CEO; members packed the room for every bargaining session; and members wore Fair Contract Now buttons every single day.

On the external front, caregivers delivered an effective message to community stakeholders. On October 15, NUHW co-sponsored a town hall meeting during which the community discussed the state of health care at Seton since the takeover by BlueMountain. With San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim and Daly City Vice-Mayor Dave Canepa acting as facilitators, dozens of community members and Seton caregivers testified regarding a number of critical issues impacting patient care, including the challenge of recruiting and retaining qualified staff due to BlueMountain–Seton’s below-market wages.

 The strong contract and overwhelming support from members in the ratification vote is an inspiring victory for all healthcare workers — a victory against the increasing influence of corporations and financial outsiders on our healthcare system and caregivers’ ability to deliver quality patient care.