More than 14,000 registered union nurses at Dignity Health ratified a four-year contract with the health system that includes wage increases and provisions to recruit and retain workers.
Members of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee voted to approve the contract with the San Francisco-based health system on Sept. 17. The contract covers Dignity Health nurses in California and Nevada.
"This agreement recognizes the critical role of our nurses in delivering healthcare, reaffirms our commitment to creating the safest possible care environment and maintains our longstanding positive relationship with our labor partners," said Scott Fuller, senior vice president of employee and labor relations at Dignity Health, the largest hospital system in California.
Nurses are pleased with the contract, which establishes healthcare as a human right, said Sandy Reding, president of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee.
"It's not all about economics," Reding said. "It's about working conditions, because we want to make sure that nurses aren't leaving the field and we can keep them in our communities to care for our patients."
The new collective bargaining agreement guarantees nurses will have access to the highest level of personal protective equipment available to protect them while caring for COVID-19 patients or participating in Dignity Health's Pandemic Task Force.
Dignity Health and the union agree that the health system must intensify its efforts to fight racial injustice and healthcare disparities in the communities it serves, commit to a workplace free from racism and unlawful discrimination, and expand its implicit and unconscious bias training, Reding said. Promoting culturally competent care delivery and career advancement for underserved members of the workforce are also important, she said.
The contract includes financial incentives for workers, such as a 13.5% wage increase over four years, and an agreement not to raid pension or retiree healthcare funds.
Dignity Health workers also won contract language addressing workplace violence prevention, increased tuition reimbursement for continuing education and mechanisms for hiring and retaining nurses amid a staffing shortage.
"We're hoping that this way we can attract more experienced nurses and keep the nurses that we do have," Reding said. "Attracting them is one thing, but keeping them and maintaining a stable workforce is really critical."