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Workers at Aspen nursing homes fight hard for new contracts

NUHW members at three Northern California nursing homes finalized contracts this month with a new operator that was intent on reversing gains workers had secured under the previous administration.

The approximately 205 workers at Cottonwood Healthcare Center, University Post-Acute Rehab, and Woodland Post-Acute nursing homes fought hard to avert the worst takeaway sought by the new owner, Aspen, and secured contracts that were better than deals reached by workers at other Aspen facilities.

Aspen took control of the Sacramento-area facilities in early 2023 when Sabra Health Care REIT divied up a 24-property holding previously leased to North American Health Care. When Aspen assumed ownership of Cottonwood, University, and Woodland, the company recognized its new employees as NUHW members, but refused to recognize their contract, which had expired.

What followed were months of arduous negotiations on new contracts.

Workers at Woodland were the first to reach an agreement, which provides wage increases ranging from 3 percent to 15 percent in the first year of the contract.

However, workers at Cottonwood and University rejected the employer’s proposal. At University, workers were preparing to strike before reaching an agreement that provided more money for certain job classifications.

Workers at Cottonwood also authorized a strike before returning to the bargaining table to win further concessions. Their contract requires Aspen to increase its share of the costs for the HMO plan from 75 percent to 85 percent for workers who are already enrolled in the plan.

Members at all three facilities will also be receiving higher shift differentials and additional money if they don’t enroll in the company’s health plan.

“I’m proud of my coworkers for standing strong and refusing Aspen’s initial offer and forcing the company to make additional concessions,” said Milagros Nino Cudal, a certified nursing assistant at Cottonwood. “We must stay vigilant. It’s clear that Aspen has no intention of doing right by workers, but I’m optimistic that this show of strength will position us to bigger wins for ourselves and our patients in the next contract.”

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