Hospital workers at United Medical Center in Washington, DC marched into the Chief Financial Officer’s office in City Hall on September 28 to demand action on a collective bargaining agreement, including retroactive pay and raises going back five years.
A nonprofit community hospital, UMC is owned by the District of Columbia. Therefore, ratified collective bargaining agreement budgets must be approved first by the city’s Chief Financial Officer and then City Council before going into full effect.
The original agreement negotiated between 1199 and UMC management was ratified by members in 2012 and sent to the District’s then-CFO for approval. 1199 and UMC management were eventually instructed to renegotiate the contract because, according to the office of then-Mayor Vincent Gray, there wasn’t enough money in the DC budget to cover the raises.
A new contract was finally meditated and arbitrated in August, 2015, after a long period of tense negotiations during which UMC experienced a turnover in management. According to the new CFO, Jeffrey DeWitt, there again wasn’t enough money in the budget to give workers their agreed-upon raises and retroactive pay.
As a result, workers at UMC haven’t received raises since 2011—even though UMC management and supervisors have received raises during the same time period.
Frustrated with the lack of transparency regarding the contract, union members organized a petition drive and a march on Jeffrey DeWitt’s office to deliver the signed petitions, demand action on the bargaining agreement, and get an update on the status of their raises. When asked specifically when we would start seeing money in our paychecks, he assured union members that the budget with the retroactive pay and raises had just been passed by the UMC Board earlier that day, and would be sent to City Council for approval soon.
“We made progress but we’re not done fighting yet,” said Debra Jeje, an ER patient care coordinator. “We made it clear to the CFO that we will be at the City Council office if this doesn’t move in a timely manner.”
“It felt good to finally hear some good news,” said patient transporter David Lewis. “I’m a delegate, and people are always asking me where their money is. Now I have something to tell my co-workers.”