Support Striking Kaiser Therapists

USC Call Center workers get big raises

NewsJuly 26, 2022

With two daughters in college and one entering her senior year in high school, there are always extra expenses coming up for Gabby Guzman.

“There’s tuition, supplies, boarding,” says the USC Call Center Scheduler. “Even though they’re in New York and San Francisco, you’re still there for them, helping them no matter what.”

Guzman has extra money to help her girls thanks to big raises she and her 80 coworkers at the Alhambra Call Center won as part of the contract they signed in 2021 with Keck Medicine of USC.

The agreement signed in 2021 includes a wage scale that raises workers’ wages to the step rate corresponding to their years of relevant experience and job classification. For many workers, these increases are in the double digits.

Guzman, with over 25 years of experience, will see a bump of $6 an hour in her paycheck.

“I’ve been working in the medical field for 25 years and I’m very knowledgeable,” she notes. “Many of my coworkers also have been working for a long time and provide a great service when helping our patients. A lot of people will be getting what they deserve because we were all underpaid.”

This raise is a big difference from the 0.43 cents per hour she received before the unit joined NUHW last year.

For years, USC Call Center employees, who assist in scheduling patients and getting their questions answered, were paid at or near minimum wage. After a long fight in which they had prepared to strike, the workers won a contract that brought their pay to the level of UCLA and City of Hope. For Guzman, that meant a 10 percent increase.

Workers also won free family health insurance, which puts them on an even playing field with the rest of the more than 1,600 NUHW members at USC.

Those wage hikes and benefits have made believers out of those who were initially ambivalent about joining a union.

“I have people who were unsure who now say ‘thank you so much, we got our increase, our bonus; I am now represented by a union if I think i’m going to be reprimanded,’” says Guzman who was part of the NUHW bargaining team during contract negotiations and is now a steward. “It feels great to be able to help others.”

The contract, she adds, also gives them peace of mind about job security and what to expect in wages every year.

“I really like what I do. I like caring for patients and assisting them with what they need,” she says. “But we also have to take care of ourselves. With inflation and everything costing more, there’s a lot of people who have been on a tight budget and these raises are really going to help a lot.”