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Sutter workers keep free healthcare in hard-fought contract wins


It took a long hard fight, but NUHW members who provide homecare for Sutter Health and work at Sutter’s psychiatric hospital won contracts in June that significantly increased salaries and preserved their employer-paid healthcare plans.

Sutter, the largest hospital chain in Northern California, made significant concessions only after two strikes by workers at the Sutter Center for Psychiatry in Sacramento, a picket held by the two dozen caregivers who work at the Sutter Visiting Nurses Association in Santa Cruz and public leafleting by nearly 400 NUHW members who work at Sutter Care at Home in the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Sacramento, and San Francisco.

Elected officials throughout Northern California also supported the contract campaign, urging Sutter to settle a new contract with the NUHW members in Santa Cruz and first contracts for the psychiatric, home care and hospice workers, most of whom had organized their unions over two years ago. Sacramento Council member Katie Valenzuela penned an op-ed in the Sacramento News and Review criticizing Sutter for its bad-faith bargaining with its NUHW members in the city.

The 150 workers at the psychiatric hospital were the only Sutter workers to strike and the first to win a contract. They forced Sutter to abandon its demand to start making them pay for their HMO health plan. Their 18-month contract also includes an initial 4 or 4.5  percent raise with additional raises after six months and one year.

The agreement also includes a codified system of progressive discipline and grievance procedures as well as a prohibition against Sutter making unilateral changes to working conditions without first negotiating over it.

“I am so proud of this contract,” said Purnell Nesmith, a patient care support specialist. “It was a long, hard fight, but we stuck together and did it. We won a lot of things, and next time we’ll fight to make our contract even stronger.”

Two weeks later, the next agreement was reached between Sutter and two dozen long-time NUHW members, including medical social workers, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and physical therapists, who provide homecare services in Santa Cruz.

Their 18-month contract included no increases to their health plan and initial raises ranging from 8.6 to 9.4 percent for all workers along with 3 percent across-the-board wages after one year.

Just a few days later Sutter reached agreement with more than 360 Northern California home health and hospice workers who joined NUHW over the past three years.

The agreement also ensures that Sutter will pay the full premium for workers’ EPO health plan while guaranteeing everyone raises of more than 10 percent by the end of the 18-month contract.

All three contracts will expire at roughly the same time as the contract for 525 NUHW members who work at Sutter California Pacific Medical Center hospitals in San Francisco. With all of NUHW’s 1,000 Sutter members poised to negotiate new contacts together in late 2025, they’ll be in an even stronger position to win strong raises and protect their healthcare benefits.

“Our contract is proof that we made the right decision by forming a union,” said Stephanie Smith, an RN case manager at Sutter Sacramento Hospice. “We’ve won rights that we’ve never had, and I’m excited to go back into bargaining knowing that we’ll be united with so many other Sutter caregivers who have the same goals and the same determination to win what’s best for our patients and ourselves.”

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