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How NUHW members won a great contract at Providence Tarzana

What a difference five years can make. In 2018, NUHW members at Providence Cedars Sinai Tarzana Medical Center ratified a four-year contract that wasn’t bad, but didn’t come close enough to achieving their goals.

Fast forward to 2023, and workers are celebrating a contract that has transformed their hospital from one of the lowest paying facilities in Southern California to one of the highest paying.

How’d they do it?

They built a bigger, more representative bargaining committee and — after three years of blood, sweat and tears, saving lives during the worst days of the pandemic, they made a commitment to each other that they wouldn’t settle for anything less than what they had earned.

“The pandemic taught us to know our value, and we were willing to make it known to our employer,” said Jonathan Mexicanos, a respiratory therapist, who served on the two most recent bargaining committees.

What workers won

The four-year contract that the nearly 600 NUHW members overwhelmingly voted to ratify in February includes average wage hikes that were approximately three times higher than the 2018 contract.

The agreement includes:

  • Cost of living raises and higher salary steps that will increase overall wages for workers by an average of 40 percent over four years.
  • A $1,500 ratification bonus for full time workers and $750 for part time workers.
  • Recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
  • Clearer path for part-time workers to get full time status.

How they won it

The lynchpin of the contract campaign was a detailed research report that demonstrated to the hospital and members that Tarzana’s wages were 22 percent below market. With understaffing a growing problem at Tarzana, the data forced management to grasp that a major salary hike would be required to put the hospital on firmer ground.

The research report also helped the Bargaining Team galvanize their coworkers and motivate them to demand more from management than they had won in the past.

Attendance was strong during a Dec.7 info-picket that was covered by local media, and workers had authorized a 5-day strike, after striking for just one day in 2018.

“This was a much more significant strike threat than four years before,” said Francisco Cendejas, a director in NUHW’s Southern California Hospital Division, who led negotiations on the contract. “Providence was trying to avoid us going on a longer strike.”

The determination of members to win a better contract was reflected in the size of the bargaining committee.

“We built a bargaining committee that was ten times bigger than the last one,” Cendejas said. “Over two dozen people regularly attended bargaining. The vast majority were new to building their union. We found lots of new leaders.”

Myrna King, a food service worker, said “when the hospital negotiated, they saw how many people were participating.”

King said attendance was also bolstered by holding negotiations next to the hospital as opposed to in 2018, when talks took place in Burbank. “This way, people who were working could come in during their 30-minute breaks,” she said. “They had time to pop in and join the bargaining session.”

NUHW members said the campaign taught them how much stronger their union can be when colleagues are united and determined to win big improvements.

“An effective union can change misery and despair into hope and progress,” Mexicanos said. “Many at Tarzana now have hope. Now we have a workforce stronger for the future generations to come.”

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