14,000 UC Nurses Reach Tentative 5-Year Contract Agreement Protecting Patient, RN Rights
Registered nurses at the five major University of California (UC) medical centers, 10 student health centers, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have reached a tentative contract agreement with the UC, featuring a host of improvements and protections for both patients and nurses, the California Nurses Association (CNA) announced today.
If approved in voting starting next week, the five-year contract, which covers 14,000 RNs in the UC system, would run through October, 2022.
“This is such a tremendous accomplishment by nurses throughout the state, who stood strong for our patients and won the protections that they deserve—because we will never stop advocating for safe patient care and for the rights of nurses as we provide that care,” said UCSF RN and bargaining team member Randy Howell, RN. “And this is all happened in an environment where corporate forces are constantly trying to attack unions. UC nurses stood union strong, and we used our collective voice to win an agreement that is going to benefit patients all over California for years to come.”
“We are so proud of our nurse leadership for standing up for our patients, families, and community,” said UCLA Santa Monica RN and bargaining team member Valerie Ewald. “This victory would not be possible without the dedication and sacrifice we’ve made through the last 20 months of this contract fight.”
Contract highlights include:
- Supporting safe staffing for safe patient care. The tentative agreement includes protections for staffing based on patient acuity (the level of care a patient’s illness requires), not based on UC budgetary goals; protections from unsafe assignments to areas requiring specialty expertise; improved protections around shift rotation; and language ensuring RNs’ right take their lawful meal and rest breaks. All of these safe staffing protections make for safe patient care, say nurses, which is what UC patients deserve.
- Workplace violence and sexual harassment protections. If nurses aren’t safe, patients aren’t safe. Given that healthcare workers experience extremely high rates of workplace violence, nurses say it’s critical that the tentative agreement states UC facilities must have a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan in place—in line with California’s nation-leading workplace violence law—as well as protections from sexual harassment.
“Nurses in California are fortunate to live in a state with the strongest healthcare workplace violence regulations in that nation, thanks to CNA nurses’ hard work in winning those protections. But our employers also need to be held accountable for following the law, so it’s a big win to have strong contract language stating that UC is responsible for keeping nurses, and also patients and their families, safe from violence,” said RN Maureen Berry, of UC Irvine.
- Infectious disease protections. Healthcare workers cannot protect their patients without being protected themselves, say nurses, and to that end, the tentative agreement includes language strengthening the policies and equipment necessary to control the spread of communicable diseases in the hospital.
- Economic gains and pension protections to help retain experienced nurses. The tentative pact includes pay increases of at least 15% over the term of the contract, with additional wages that address economic disparity for a number of locations and job classifications, contributing to the recruitment and retention of quality, experienced nurses for the community. Nurses dedicating their lives to caring for UC patients also deserve to retire with dignity, say nurses—who fought hard to ensure the tentative agreement preserves and protect pension benefits.
“We are beyond thrilled at this huge achievement, which is not just a win for RNs, but for everyone in our care. We did this for communities all over California, because it is our duty to advocate for them,” said bargaining team member Michelle Kay, Nurse Practitioner at UCB Student Health. “UC nurses showed that we will never stop fighting, and because we are fighting for what’s just, we will stand up for public health and safety until we win the protections our patients deserve.”