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Newly unionized Sutter caregivers win fight for merit raises

The first year Kit Ho joined Sutter Care at Home, San Francisco as a registered nurse, she didn’t qualify for the annual merit pay increase because she was too new at the job. The second year she received a 1.5 percent merit raise followed by a 2.5 percent raise her third year.

While the raises were small, they helped Ho keep up with the rising cost of living. That’s why she and many of her colleagues were furious when Sutter announced last summer that all workers who had unionized with NUHW would not be receiving a merit increase. Sutter claimed that the merit raises were now subject to the contract negotiations — but that wasn’t true.

“We were all looking for jobs after that,” Ho said. “A lot of people felt disappointed, ignored.”

With the help of NUHW organizers, the workers filed a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

“We testified, and we waited, and now we won!,” Ho said.

The NLRB settlement,reached on February 2, states that within 60 days (April 3), Sutter must pay the merit raises it owes to all workers, with interest that ranges from 5 percent to 7 percent.

Additionally, Sutter has to publicly declare to its employees: “We will not threaten to withhold your merit increase or fail to pay you your merit increase if you vote to join a union or because you are represented by a union.”

Ho said the victory has made believers of workers who were ambivalent about the unionizing effort.

“We persuaded a couple of people to really believe in the union and that we can accomplish things as a union,” she said.

Moreover, she said the victory is good for patients because it will help Sutter retain workers during a period of ongoing severe short-staffing.

“It’s a confidence boost, and it stops people from leaving,” Ho said. “As hard as it is with all the expenses, it makes it a little easier to keep working for (Sutter).”

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