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More hospice workers vote to join NUHW

For the past few years, workers at Hospice East Bay have had to contend with ever increasing caseloads, impacting the quality of care they can provide to their homebound clients. And the suggestions they offered management to address the problems went unheeded.

“People were feeling really frustrated and not heard,” Bereavement Counselor Julie Aronowitz said.

And so began an organizing drive that resulted in 82 hospice workers working in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties in the Bay Area to join NUHW.

The election, which was chronicled by Capital & Main and the Los Angeles Times, marked the fifth successful hospice organizing drive for NUHW since last May as the industry focuses more on productivity metrics, leaving workers less time to care for patients. Also in November, 15 workers at Sutter Care at Home Hospice in Sacramento, including bereavement counselors, voted to join several dozen of their colleagues as NUHW members.

At Hospice East Bay, the newly organized unit includes social workers, nurses, nurse practitioners, bereavement and spiritual care counselors, music therapists, and pharmacists who defeated an anti-union effort from management that included daily videos and captive audience meetings. Management also asked for a year to address their concerns, a request that only further alienated workers.

“There was a sense that change was really needed,” said Aronowitz, who added that the 56-15 vote tally demonstrated that workers understood they couldn’t accomplish their goals without the power of a union.

The victory at Hospice East Bay comes on the heels of a series of successful hospice organizing campaigns over the past year, including at Providence Hospice in Sonoma County and Sutter Care at Home in San Mateo, Alameda, and Sacramento counties.

“Hospice workers throughout California are taking note of these victories and realizing that as the hospice industry becomes more corporatized, they need the power of a union,” NUHW President Sal Rosselli told Capital & Main. “They’re determined to have a voice in their workplace to advocate for themselves and the families they serve.”

Aronowitz said that over the past year, she and her colleagues have been forced to care for more patients, leaving them with more daily visits and less time to provide the level of care that patients need to receive. When nurses raised concerns at staff meetings, Aronowitz said they didn’t receive any meaningful response from management.

Now Aronowitz and her colleagues are looking forward to bargaining their first union contract and advocating for their top priorities, which include better staffing, safer workplaces, and more respect from management for their expertise when it comes to caring for patients.

“This is a great opportunity to learn more and understand the hospice industry and how decisions have been made,” Aronowitz said. “We finally have a seat at the table to help shape decisions that impact patients and families that we care for every day.”

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