After Year-Long Fight, Beverly Nurses Win First Union Contract

United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals

Registered Nurses at Beverly Hospital ratified our first contract this week, winning protections for patient safety after a year of tough bargaining.

Beverly is a community hospital in Montebello that serves working families in East Los Angeles and the small nearby cities. After years of individual efforts to address concerns about safe staffing and broken equipment, Beverly nurses voted to join United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) in February 2011.

But when we sat down at the bargaining table to negotiate our first contract we faced classic bad faith bargaining tactics from management: refusals to provide information or bargain often enough, and stalling. The NLRB determined to prosecute the hospital in March 2012 after a thorough investigation.

Meanwhile, Cal-OSHA launched an investigation after our reports of a malfunctioning Code Blue system in Intensive Care, malfunctioning electrical outlets, flooding, water damage and mold in the hospital.

We refused to give up. We rallied with Congresswoman Judy Chu. We held a candlelight vigil. We launched a community petition drive. We fought for fairness on multiple fronts.

And we received much-needed morale boosts from a steady stream of our union brothers and sisters who visited the hospital and demanded to see the CEO. He kept ducking them, but we have no doubt that they had a cumulative effect. Delegations included Montebello Firefighters, Clean Carwash Campaign, Grocery Workers (UFCW), California School Employees (CSEA) and AFSCME.

And finally, we won! On May 2 we voted 96% for our first contract, with a decent wage increase after years of a freeze that cost us good nurses, and most importantly: language that will help us improve the quality of patient care.

Our story demonstrates once again the power of collective action, persistence and solidarity. When we stand strong together, we benefit, and so does our community.