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Union raises pay for hospital workers

Secures $15/hr wage, benefits for employees in Steward hospital network

Banner Staff
Union raises pay for hospital workers
1199 SEIU Executive Vice President Tyrék D. Lee says the pay raise will benefit the workers’ families and communities.

Members of the health care workers union 1199 SEIU have negotiated a labor contract with Steward Health Care that will raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019 and guarantee them access to affordable health insurance.

The agreement, finalized two weeks ago, will affect approximately 5,000 workers at hospitals including Carney Hospital in Dorchester, the Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Norwood Hospital and St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton.

It is the latest in a string of victories in a nationwide Fight for $15 campaign union activists have been waging over the last two years.

“This will have a major effect in the workers’ ability to provide for their families,” said Tyrék D. Lee, executive vice president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “It has an effect on the communities they live in.”

The workers covered by the new agreement currently make as little as $11 an hour.

The agreement with Steward Health Care, the fifth largest employer in Massachusetts, is the latest victory in SEIU1199’s efforts to increase wages for its members. Other recent agreements have secured a path to a $15 hourly wage at Boston Medical Center and South Boston Community Health Center.

Lee said the higher wages 1199 members are receiving could have a ripple effect for wages in Massachusetts, where health care represents the largest sector of employment. Lee noted that the Steward Hospitals in the latest agreement are in so-called gateway cities — cities with large immigrant populations and a scarcity of well-paying jobs.

“It’s about creating a better standard of living,” he said of the agreement.

Benefits

In addition to the wage increase, the contract also continues Steward’s participation in the 1199SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund — a benefit that provides free college tuition for all 1199SEIU members within Steward Health Care seeking to advance their careers in the medical field. Founded in 2006, the 1199SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund is a joint labor-management partnership between 1199SEIU and local participating health providers that enhances patient care and helps thousands of workers access new training and postsecondary certificate or degree programs.

The new pact includes a 5.5 percent total across the board wage increase for union members over three years. Workers at both of Steward’s Boston hospitals plus three others will receive a $15 minimum wage by the end of the second year of the contract (November 1, 2018). The labor agreement covers a wide range of healthcare jobs including a variety of service, clerical and technical positions.

In addition to the standing joint labor-management committees through which Steward and 1199SEIU work jointly on initiatives to improve care and jobs within the hospitals, the contract establishes a compensation workgroup that will include representatives from the union membership and hospital administration.

“Quality care is directly linked to quality jobs, and this contract raises standards for healthcare workers across the Steward system,” Lee said. “It ensures these dedicated caregivers will continue to have a strong voice at their workplaces and access to the training and education opportunities they need to provide the quality care their patients deserve.”

“This contract builds upon the shared work that Steward and 1199SEIU members have done not only to continue strengthening the level of patient care at our hospitals – but also to provide valuable education opportunities and good jobs for the entire health care team,” said John Polanowicz, executive vice president of the Steward Hospital Services Group. “It is a reflection of Steward’s commitment to the communities we serve.”

The effective dates of the contract are November 1, 2016 – October 31, 2019.