Health Care for All

1199SEIU Members at Columbia Memorial Hospital Ratify Contract With Overwhelming Support of Entire Membership

April 7, 2016
New collective bargaining agreement meets dual goals of maintaining and improving quality care at the hospital and protecting good jobs in the local economy.

After 7 months of bargaining that was at times rocky and included a public candlelight vigil of protest, 1199SEIU members at Columbia Memorial Hospital ratified a new collective bargaining agreement on April 5. The contract is in effect until December 31, 2019. Wages are retroactive to January 1, 2016. All others provisions took effect upon ratification on April 5. 1199SEIU Vice President Rosa Lomuscio, the lead union negotiator who worked with a large committee of Columbia Memorial 1199 members said, “From the beginning, we based our contract proposals on the principles of quality care and good jobs. We met our goals in every case.”

There are 819 healthcare workers in the 1199SEIU bargaining unit, which includes 207 registered nurses and 612 direct caregivers, professional & technical workers and service & maintenance employees.

Contract Highlights:

To meet the safe patient handling and safe staffing concerns of RNs, the contract includes language and a process to address acuity levels and patient safety. It also allows for mediation, before rushing to a more expensive and long arbitration process, when looking for resolution to on-the-job safety issues that can't be worked out internally.

Lomuscio said, “There is an undeniable connection between healthcare workers who can take care of themselves and their families at home and who are respected on the job --- and quality patient care. This agreement gives members economic security and peace of mind by providing a guaranteed pension, affordable health insurance and annual wages increases.

Big changes in the healthcare industry in general, and the recent Columbia Memorial Hospital/Albany Medical Center affiliation have raised concerns about job security and maintaining stable union jobs at the hospital. New contract language addresses this issue with a "successor clause" that ensures 1199 membership and job protection in cases of mergers, acquisitions, affiliations and other changes.

Ruth Snow, a Patient Care Tech and negotiating committee member, said that this is more important to the community than might meet the eye. “When healthcare workers have good, stable, union jobs that provide livable wages and affordable benefits, local economies prosper. That's because we can pay the bills and also have some money left over to enjoy what the community offers in retail, recreation, and entertainment. It’s a win-win.”

The contract includes language that will protect jobs from being subcontracted for more than a year and a half and holds the employer accountable when making decisions about subcontracting.

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1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. We represent over 400,000 nurses and caregivers throughout Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Florida. Our mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all.

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