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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

MGH employees unite for the secret Local 250 hand signal (pre-election 2001).

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.

Ellen and I missed the final night of negotiations, not that we didn't try to be there. When we arrived at the Doubletree Hotel Thursday evening and inquired at the desk, we were told that they had no record of SEIU, local 250, or CHW having a conference room. We assumed negotiations must have ended earlier in the day and returned home, missing the conclusion of the biggest game in town, bigger even than the Kings.

  It's in our contract! No Subcontracting: The employer has agreed that there will be no subcontracting of bargaining unit work in the facility and if the employer tries to move our work out of the facility we have the right to strike.


  The final days of bargaining between SEIU local 250 and CHW took place at the Hilton, just off Arden in Sacramento. However, because of a lack of space at the Hilton the final marathon bargaining session which extended from 3pm, thursday, Apr 11, to 5 am, friday, Apr 12, took place at the nearby Double Tree Hotel.

  Ray Nelson, MSJH ER and Sal Roselli, President, SEIU local 250, discuss an issue while awaiting CHW's return from their nearby caucus. Bargaining this day was taking place in the Hilton's Tahoe room.


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