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NUHW grows at Providence’s St. Joseph Eureka and Santa Rosa Memorial hospitals


As NUHW members at five Providence hospitals campaign for a single contract, 55 professional workers at St. Joseph Eureka in Humboldt County and nearly 100 others at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital have voted to join them as NUHW members.

The new members, who include physical therapists, social workers, behavioral health professionals and dietitians, organized to safeguard patient care and improve their working conditions and salaries.

Willow Svien, an occupational therapist who has worked at St. Joseph Eureka Hospital for the past nine years, said she and her colleagues started organizing as Providence imposed productivity measures that restricted their clinical discretion and impacted their opportunities for career growth.

“Our schedules were being changed, and we weren’t given the flexibility we were given in the past,” Svien said of the company’s “impossible” productivity goals.

Workers who didn’t meet the productivity goals, especially workers with the highest seniority, risked being demoted on the “career ladder” program that allows them to develop professionally at the hospital.

“They just kept taking from us, and we realized we needed to do something,” Svien said. “We said ‘unless we are unified, we don’t have any protection, and we don’t have a voice.’” 

Now that they’ve formed a union, they’ll have a voice on the job and the right to bargain collectively over the issues that matter to them, including advocating for fair wages, flexible scheduling, job security, adequate staffing, and opportunities for career advancement.

“Just hearing the stories of my (unionized) coworkers of how they’re able to get increases and a say in how things are done; we just wanted to have that same fighting power,” said Nathaniel Aviles, a social worker at Santa Rosa Memorial. 

He says the unionization effort in Santa Rosa was sparked by the inequities he and his fellow professionals faced, such as not getting the same benefits or incentives for taking a weekend shift. They’re also not able to participate in the clinical ladder program that rewards workers with 5 percent or 10 percent pay increases as rewards for earning licenses, taking on special projects, and going above and beyond their duties.

“We just want to have a say in how things operate, making things more equitable for social workers in the hospital,” Aviles said. “We need a seat at the table so we can advocate for ourselves without having to feel fear or repercussions coming our way.”

NUHW has been growing fast in the Providence system. Last year, nearly 600 workers at Providence Little Company of Mary, San Pedro voted to join NUHW.

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