This month, Teamsters 856 members working in the technical unit at Marin General Hospital (MGH) ratified their new agreement with MGH. Their nine months of hard work throughout the negotiations process are a prime example of the power working people can wield when they stand together.
“We were persistent with what we wanted and let the hospital know we were not willing to back down,” said Kelly Ryves, a lab assistant, shop steward, and member of the negotiations team.
The agreement includes a 10.5% wage increase over the four-year term, increases for the per diem differentials in all classifications, creation of a Joint Staffing Committee to address staffing issues and patient safety concerns, increases the tuition reimbursement from $500 to $1,000 per employee, and continues employer-paid health care at no cost to employees.
“We had a two-pronged attacked this past year,” said Brandon Taylor, a Teamster shop steward, member of the negotiations team, and environment services aide at MGH. “Get a good contract and address individual department issues.”
Local 856 began addressing the departmental issues before negotiations began. Last May, a group of members testified at a North Bay Jobs With Justice Workers’ Rights Board hearing about how their working conditions were negatively impacting patient care and safety.
After hearing the members’ testimony, the Workers’ Rights Board recommended actions MGH management could take to work with staff to recreate and foster a work and hospital environment that was better for patients and staff.
Last month, the team reached a tentative agreement with MGH, which was ratified earlier this month.
“Our wage increases were the most important followed by ensuring our benefits stayed at no cost to us, which we got,” said Kelly. “We were also able to get a lot of language changes surrounding disciplinary action.”
The changes to the disciplinary action language in the contract reduced the amount of time a verbal warning or a written warning letter remains on file from two to three years to a total of one year. “It was important because we’ve lost good people when old discipline from years ago was used to run them out the door,” said Brandon.
For the negotiations team, months of bargaining paid off and they have an agreement that will benefit their coworkers.
“I feel like we have an agreement that is good for our members,” said Brandon. “Being in a union makes me feel strong. Every time I walk into MGH, I feel like I have all of Local 856 behind me and management can see it.”