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Providence workers launch fight for single NorCal contract

Nearly 2,000 NUHW members at five Providence hospitals in Northern California kicked off their campaign this month to win their first region-wide contract with a big show of unity during the first bargaining sessions.

With Providence insisting on once again negotiating separate contracts for NUHW members at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Petaluma Valley Hospital, and two hospitals in Humboldt County, NUHW members from all of those hospitals surprised management by participating via Zoom and in person during sessions earlier this month in in Eureka and Napa.

Management representatives reacted badly, storming out of one session and demanding that workers participating on Zoom always keep their cameras on — a blatant attempt to limit participation that workers rejected.

“They were shocked,” Ruby Sierra, a surgical tech at St. Joseph Hospital, said of the Providence executives at the first bargaining session in Eureka. “We had over 50 members participating, including a lot of people… from Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Queen of the Valley. Our message came across great: we are united.”

Sierra is part of the 150-person strong Coordinated Bargaining Council representing NUHW members at all the NorCal Providence facilities.

This is her first time participating in negotiations and the first time when “all the sister hospitals are united” to work together for the best possible contract.

“I think our proposals are really good,” Sierra said. “Having so many people involved, it’s going to be a better outcome for every job classification.”

Sierra will be mostly participating by Zoom when negotiations take place outside Humboldt County, but she’s also taking personal time and traveling four hours to Petaluma Valley Hospital for in-person negotiations in a show of unity with her fellow NUHW members who work for Providence in Sonoma County.

“I’m very passionate about this because I think that together we can get a good contract,” Sierra said. “And staying united will show Providence that we love working at our hospitals, but we also deserve better pay and better benefits.”

Last year, NUHW members across all Northern California Providence hospitals voted nearly unanimously in favor of joining together to bargain a contract that radically improves conditions for workers and patients.

They’re seeking to make gains similar to what NUHW members won at Providence Cedar-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, which catapulted that facility from one of the lowest paying in Southern California to the one of the highest paying. That agreement includes cost-of-living raises and higher salary steps that will increase overall wages by an average of 40 percent over four years, a clearer path for part-time workers to get full-time status, and the recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday.

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