Healthcare workers at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital overwhelmingly voted to ratify a new contract on Friday, ending nine months of negotiations. The three-year agreement came just days after the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) organized hundreds of people for an informational picket outside the hospital. The contract is a first for staff who only became unionized a year ago—and they're celebrating the good news.
"This is a big win for workers and patients," Rafael Michel, a certified nursing assistant, said in a press release. "After giving so much to this hospital, we now have the right to work with management to ensure quality patient care and have a say in decisions that will impact our lives. And we have a contract that secures our jobs, guarantees us better pay and gives us the foundation to keep strengthening our union."
When workers picketed last month, they drew attention to Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corporation's lack of competitive wages and increased hiring of on-call workers without benefits at its Fountain Valley location, despite it being Orange County's largest for-profit hospital.
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The two sides sat down for all-day bargaining on May 1 and finalized tentative agreements shortly after midnight. During negotiations, Tenet sold three of its hospitals in Texas, but NUHW secured provisions protecting jobs and the new contract in Fountain Valley should workers ever find themselves under new ownership.
"We are pleased that the Fountain Valley Regional Hospital & Medical Center has reached a first contract agreement with the National Union of Healthcare Workers," Lisa Wilson, Chief Business Development Officer for Fountain Valley Regional, wrote the Weekly. "Our focus, as always, remains on providing high-quality, compassionate care to our patients. We deeply appreciate the dedication and commitment shown by our physicians, nurses and staff every day."
Hospital workers will now enjoy 9 to 16 percent raises based on seniority in a new scale that brings them closer to wages at other similar workplaces. Both on-call and part-time workers at the hospital can apply for full-time status after accruing equivalent hours for six months. The union, which represents nearly 600 workers, also gained improved health benefits and the formation of a new patient care committee that gives them a voice on services provided at the hospital.
"Our members fought hard," Sal Rosselli, NUHW's president said in a press release. "And they won a contract that finally gives them the respect they deserve."