Workers at USC Eye Institute vote to join NUHW

NewsJune 27, 2022

Every month, Rene Angeles pays over $300 a month for his family healthcare coverage. Despite working for six years for one of the richest medical institutions in Southern California — the Eye Institute at USC — the ophthalmic service specialist only has a partially-subsidized employer medical insurance plan.

The prospect of winning a free HMO healthcare plan — which NUHW members at Keck-USC facilities have already achieved — as well as regular pay increases and increased job security motivated Angeles and his colleagues at the Institute to join NUHW in an election earlier this month.

“Everyone is excited and looking forward to the process of electing the bargaining team and we hope in the end we get a contract with better pay for all of us,” Angeles said.

Workers at the facility help patients with eye tests, Lasik, eye surgery, and all vision-related medical needs. They include ophthalmic photographers, medical assistants, clerical, and health insurance authorization workers.

The organizing victory continues NUHW’s rapid expansion at USC Keck facilities. In recent years, NUHW has organized 320 workers at 14 ambulatory clinics in addition to the approximately 1,600 NUHW members who work at Keck Hospital, Norris Cancer Hospital, and the Alhambra Call Center.

The workers at the Eye Institute will be added to the Ambulatory Clinic contract, but they still have to negotiate over their specific wages and other contractual terms.

The strong contracts won by NUHW members in recent years at USC Keck facilities securing strong benefits and pay raises helped the workers at the Eye Institute push forward in their organizing drive.

Angeles, who has never been part of a union before, admitted he was hesitant at first.

“Somebody invited me over to a meeting, and when I started hearing about all the benefits we would be having, I knew this was the right thing to do,” he said.

Rene also received validation from his son, Eduardo Angeles, an NUHW member, who works at USC radiology department.

“He would tell me about all the great benefits they have,” Rene noted. “And he loves his pay increases. He’s very happy with the union. When he found out we were organizing, he was all for it.”