Dignity Shows Respect for Nurses in New Contract

Nurses with Dignity Health, one of the nation’s largest hospital systems, just settled a four-year master contract covering about 12,000 RNs in California and Nevada that not only keeps everything they had, but actually makes improvements in salaries, expands retiree health and pension benefits, and even establishes a new insurance program to protect nurses in case of needle sticks on the job or other work injuries.

This is no small feat, considering that employers around the country are using the Affordable Care Act, the bad job market, or just about any other excuse to go after the salaries, benefits, and workplace standards of registered nurses. Currently, nurses with Sutter Health, another hospital chain that operates in many of the same markets as Dignity, have been locked in a long battle over pretty outrageous concessions that Sutter is demanding, such as getting rid of sick leave and cutting health benefits for part-time nurses. And Kaiser Permanente is showing that it is getting ready to do the same over next year’s contract negotiations with 17,000 RNs by recently breaking its longstanding agreement with nurses to not cancel scheduled shifts.  

The Dignity nurses’ recent settlement clearly shows the public, nurses, and other hospital systems that, “No, you don’t have to be a jerk about it.” Instead of declaring war on nurses, Dignity chose to be responsible and square away outstanding business, like settling the nurses’ contract, in preparation for all the changes and influx of patients that everyone is anticipating with implementation of the Affordable Care Act. They chose to do the right thing.

Of course, it’s always easier to do the right thing when there’s enormous pressure on you to do so. The Dignity nurses were organized, smart, prepared, and determined. Their employer obviously made a decision not to take on that kind of power right now. And that’s definitely a win-win for nurses, the hospitals, and, most importantly, for great patient care.

For more details about the contract, see the press release.