April 12, 2002: We now have a union AND
a contract, which, once ratified by the membership, will give nearly
all of us a 9% wage increase this year and more the next, , fully-paid
dependent health, vision and dental coverage, job security and a
solid platform for future improvements. How many small details there
are, each one so hard fought for, all contributing to the document
that will govern our work lives for the next two years! Learn it
and live it!
Many of us can remember back to 1997,
when the Local 250 campaign first started for Mercy Sacramento with
house visits by organizers and house meetings at co-workers' homes.
For us, it took almost five years to reach this day. For CHW employees
in Mt. Shasta, it was only a journey of several months.
It has been a marathon and a relay race--
some have persevered for the duration, while others contributed
their bright moment and then moved on. I think of Nate, formerly
of Radiology, MGH, who, after asking for and being refused better
wages/working conditions, got all the techs to sign the union petition
before moving on to greener (better-paying) pastures. I think of
Jill Dibert, who was there at the beginning and gave her all to
the first election effort. I think of Bill Watson, present from
the beginning and essential to the
employees unite for the secret Local 250 hand signal (pre-election
union dialogue and its ultimate success.
There are so many people who made this happen, and in the process,
forged connections with each other that I hope will be maintained.
Walking around the hospital, seeing people wearing purple lanyards
and union buttons, a person feels part of an alliance. I think we
will work better together as a result of it.
There was and is an element of faith
in all of this. Most CHW employees have never been in a union, and
for us, the idea that we would all join together to work for better
patient care through better staffing/working conditions and not
get fired in the process was risky. The option that Local 250 organizers
offered was tempting but unknown--- We had to believe in it and
in our co-workers to make this happen. We work in a Catholic Hospital,
where science and faith are called upon to heal the sick. Could
we use science (the experience other CHW employees in the Bay area
had had with Local 250) and our faith in the people we work with
to improve our (and our patient's) lives?
There were times when I wondered if we
were feisty enough to pull this off. Convincing people to sign petitions,
fill out surveys, wear buttons, march in informational picket lines---It
seems like small stuff now, but during the campaign many were afraid
to do any of this. I think some were afraid to let themselves hope
that we could win a union or that the union could fulfill its promises.
There is still a look of happy disbelief on many faces when they
hear what we won in the contract.
I realized that we were strong enough
to win this earlier in the year when employees at CHW Stockton threatened
to go on strike and won their issue. At that point, it was evident
that there was a new union Voice in the Valley, and it was effective!
We could do it. Thank you, Stockton!
There's the track record of other health
care workers in this union, , there's reformer spirit, and there's
faith at work here. Looking at our Local 250 organizers, staff,
chief bargainer, and the president of our union, Sal Roselli, seeing
their vision of future possibility and their faith that we were
up to it, we dared to go ahead, and their organizing and bargaining
ability made it happen.
At 6 a.m. 4/12/02, Bill Watson called
to announce that we'd gotten a contract that far exceeded expectations.
Scroll on to see how that came to be.