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Workers at eight Steward hospitals vote to ratify new three year labor agreement

Contract victory ensures wage increases, job security provisions, and affordable health coverage for hospital workers

 stewardMASSACHUSETTS – Nearly 5,000 healthcare workers who are members of the state’s largest healthcare union have voted to ratify a new three-year labor agreement with Steward Health Care, the largest community hospital network in Massachusetts. 

The pact covers a broad range of service, clerical, and technical employees at eight of the Steward hospitals where workers had previously voted to join 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. 

Those hospitals are: St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton; Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton; Carney Hospital in Dorchester; Quincy Medical Center; Norwood Hospital; Holy Family Hospital in Methuen; Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill; and Morton Hospital in Taunton.

“This agreement is a victory for healthcare workers and includes provisions that will continue to improve and reward the remarkable care that 1199SEIU caregivers at Steward hospitals deliver to our communities,” said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Veronica Turner (@VeeTurner1199). “The agreement reflects the exceptional dedication that 1199SEIU members demonstrate every day to our patients, to quality care, and to continually improving standards for workers in the healthcare field.”

The agreement announced today is the second master contract that 1199SEIU members have successfully negotiated with Steward management.

Workers at seven of the Steward Hospitals voted to join 1199SEIU in rolling elections between 2009 and 2012 in what was the largest successful organizing drive by a Massachusetts labor union since tens of thousands of homecare workers voted to join 1199SEIU in 2007. The homecare election was the largest union vote in the history of New England. 

Long-time union members at Good Samaritan Medical Center helped lead the effort to organize their colleagues across the former Caritas-Christi hospital network after CEO Dr. Ralph de la Torre signed a Free & Fair Elections agreement in late 2008, pledging to honor the rights of healthcare workers during secret ballot union elections and organizing campaigns. The votes to join 1199SEIU passed by landslide majorities at all seven of the hospitals where workers chose to organize.

The new pact announced today includes a guaranteed 2% increase each year for three years, totaling a 6% increase during the life of the contract for employees of Steward who are members of the healthcare union, 1199SEIU. The new contract will also continue the standard set in the prior master contract of ensuring all of the lower-wage hospital workers covered by the pact, such as dietary and housekeeping staff, receive at least a living wage.

The deal guarantees quality, affordable health insurance coverage for union members and a number of improved job security provisions, including corporate successor language that would keep the terms of the contract in effect in the event of a sale or merger of the system or individual hospitals. 

“It is great to have a voice and protections. With our union, we are moving forward and we are on a good path with this new contract,” said Donna Bryce, a unit secretary at Morton Hospital, the facility where workers most recently voted to join the union.

Joint labor-management projects aimed at improving patient care and worker education opportunities will continue, including the jointly administered 1199SEIU Training & Upgrading Fund which creates career pathways for healthcare workers through education counseling and college tuition benefits.

Healthcare workers at each of the eight hospitals covered by the pact elected a bargaining committee of their peers that met with a delegation of management representatives from each hospital. Over the course of 15 bargaining sessions, the sides hammered out details of a master agreement covering workers at eight Steward hospitals, along with eight individual “side letters” of agreement relevant to facility-specific issues.

“The bargaining committee did a fabulous job negotiating the contract. We won job security, pay increases, and have great, affordable healthcare coverage,” said Rodney Mohammed, a bio-medical technician at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton.

Over the course of two weeks, union meetings were held in each hospital to discuss the final agreement. Votes were then held in each hospital with workers voting overwhelmingly in favor of the new contracts.

The terms of the contract do not apply to Steward employees at Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer, St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, or New England Sinai Hospital in Stoughton. Workers at those three Steward-owned facilities have not yet organized to join the union.

Steward Hospitals are primarily ‘disproportionate share hospitals’ that provide care to many low-income patients, including a higher percentage of Medicaid and Medicare patients than other large Massachusetts hospital networks.

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan is president and publisher of The Valley Patriot Newspaper in North Andover, Massachusetts. He is an author, host of the Paying Attention TV/Radio Program, lectures on media bias and police issues, is a former Lawrence School Committeeman, former political director for Mass. Citizens Alliance, and a 1990 Police Survivor. You can email your comments to valleypatriot@aol.com.

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