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Providence Workers to Vote on Contract Ratification

Approximately 700 frontline health care workers, who went on strike at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center last month, reached a tentative agreement for a new contract, a significant step toward addressing the understaffing issues and patient care concerns plaguing Burbank’s only hospital, said union officials.

The tentative agreement must be ratified by hospital workers before it is final. The contract vote will happen on Nov. 20 and Nov. 21.

In October, frontline employees at Providence St. Joseph went on a five-day unfair labor practice strike.

“As frontline health care workers across the country have been leaving the industry in droves since the pandemic, this agreement marks a strong commitment to attracting and retaining good health care workers at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center,” said Maria Leal, a spokeswoman for Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West.

SEIU-UHW represents more than 700 frontline health care workers at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, including lab technicians, phlebotomists, emergency room technicians, patient transporters, nursing assistants, and dietary and environmental services workers.

Those workers convened for a heated five-day strike, which saw workers clash with Providence leadership. Several days during the strike, the hospital issued statements over workers’ conduct, accusing them of being disruptive to hospital operations and even saying that some workers attempted to scare patients while “wearing a ‘Mike Myers’ Halloween mask and holding what appeared to be a bloody prop knife,” Patricia Aidem, a spokeswoman for Providence, said in a statement.

Union officials fired back, saying, “If Providence wanted to end the strike, it should stop its unfair labor practices and resume negotiations immediately to stop the Providence short-staffing crisis.”

“There are lots of frontline caregivers who can speak to how Providence’s staffing is putting patients at risk, and we aren’t going to play into their desperate attempts to divert from that,” Leal said in a statement.

At the conclusion of the strike, both the hospital and the union assured the public that a return to good faith bargaining was to come. Now, after about three weeks, negotiations have concluded and workers are standing behind the contract.

“This agreement will ensure we can provide the quality care our patients deserve. Addressing the issues of understaffing directly impacts our ability to deliver exceptional patient care,” said Jacob Fukumoto, a Special Procedures Tech at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center. “We fought hard for this new agreement, and now we will finally have the resources to do the job we love, and keep our patients safe.”

Details of the agreement include:

• Addressing the staffing crisis by raising wages 7% in the first year, 4% in the second and 4% in the third year, and other improvements to retain current health care workers and attract new ones.

• Investments in frontline health care workers through training programs for hard-to-fill diagnostic positions such as radiology, X-ray, and CT to improve care for the local community.

First published in the November 18 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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