Big-name hospitals reach deals with labor unions representing thousands of employees

Three nurses walking down a hospital corridor
Healthcare unions reached major agreements with Dignity Health and Kaiser Permanente in California. (Getty/VILevi)

Healthcare unions look poised to chalk up two major wins in high-profile negotiations with California hospitals. On the East Coast, additional opportunities for union action also continue to brew.

RELATED: State of the union: Overworked nurses, docs organize nationwide

With a tentative agreement between the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United and Kaiser Permanente medical centers and clinics, as well as a newly ratified five-year contract between SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West and Dignity Health, healthcare unions notched two high-profile wins this week.

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The new five-year collective bargaining contract with Kaiser Permanente now goes up for ratification by the 19,000 RNs and nurse practitioners represented by the CNA and National Nurses United. It adds 150 RN full-time equivalent positions to help Kaiser with a change of EHR systems, protects current pensions and medical benefits, and provides for across-the-board wage increases. The agreement also brings 600 previously nonunion RN patient care coordinators under the contract covering Kaiser’s RNs and NPs.

Dignity Health’s agreement with SEIU-UHW maintains 15,000 workers’ fully paid, employer-provided family healthcare, provides for 13% pay raises over five years, and keeps a current defined-benefit pension plan. Dignity Health will also help to fund a joint labor-management training program, aiding in workers’ career advancement.

RELATED: Healthcare workers worry salaries may be cut in 2018

"All frontline caregivers should have strong wages and benefits because of the crucial role we play in delivering quality patient care, and we urge all hospitals to make a greater investment in caregivers, just as Dignity Health is doing with this agreement,” said Dennis Anderson, a laboratory assistant at Mercy Hospital in Folsom, California, in an announcement.

On the opposite coast, the Boston Globe reports on the potential for a messy fight between the Massachusetts Nurses Association and the state’s hospitals over the union’s proposed ballot initiative to limit the number of patients assigned to a given nurse at any point in time. Hospital organizations have reportedly complained about the cost burden of the initiative, and a legal challenge to the ballot question is currently making its way through the state’s Supreme Judicial Court system.

Finally, in Maryland, the Baltimore Sun reports on union organization efforts currently underway by nurses at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The organizing activity is driven by concerns that the hospital is short-staffed and chipping away at benefits, according to Corey Lanham, the collective bargaining director for the Mid-Atlantic region at the National Nurses Union.

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