A nursing strike planned for the holidays was narrowly avoided, with Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America and Service Employees International Union 121 RN coming to a tentative contract agreement.

Nursing staff at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, West Hills Hospital and Medical Center and Riverside Community Hospital had called a 10-day strike from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3 to protest unfair labor practices, SEIU 121 said.


A win for union members includes Los Robles’ first union contract for licensed health care professionals, made up of 120 pharmacists; clinical laboratory scientists; physical, speech and occupational therapists; social workers; and dieticians. This particular union was formed in December 2019.


SEIU 121 also nabbed a seat at the table when hospital leadership plans its response to a public health emergency — this is within a two-week window.


“That one is pretty huge,” Yolanda Tominac, a West Hills nurse and a member of the bargaining team, said in a statement. “Back in early February when we were worried COVID-19 would reach pandemic proportions, we asked the hospital for its emergency plans and what kind of PPE they had on hand. They were very reluctant to give us any information and even more reluctant to let those of us on the front lines make our recommendations. In this new contract, they agree to meet with us within two weeks of a declared emergency.”


Contract language also requires the hospital to provide all personal protective equipment based on state laws and regulations, and that HCA hire “dozens” of registered nurses at each hospital to make sure staff can take rest and meal breaks.


Members from these three facilities will vote to approve the contract in the coming days.


“This is a positive development for our colleagues, patients, fellow medical providers and the communities we serve,” HCA said in a statement. “We appreciate community leaders who put the needs of the communities first over the past week and expressed concern regarding the planned strikes.”


Area business chambers, including the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce led by Nancy Hoffman Vanyek, sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to intervene to prevent a strike at the Riverside County hospital during the pandemic crisis.
 
 “Rest assured the chambers and our partners in the business community respect the right for employee unions to collectively bargain and when necessary strike,” the letter stated. “Nevertheless, we are at an unprecedented juncture when communities across the state are shuttering their doors to slow the spread and the health of thousands of Californians is at risk.”