LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Workers, County Reach Agreement
After staging a general strike on Oct. 11, the union representing Los Angeles County service workers reached a "preliminary" contract agreement with the county yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reports. However, contract negotiations will continue between some "bargaining units of the Service Employees International Union's Local 660" -- including many health care workers (Riccardi, Los Angeles Times, 10/27). The Sacramento Bee reports that registered nurses and clinical psychologists in the union are "concerned" about staffing shortages at county hospitals as well as pay issues, according to union officials. Some 39,000 workers in the union are covered by the new three year contract, which must be approved by union members, and will give workers a 9% pay hike over three years. Most workers, however, will receive a raise between 11% and 14.5% over the "life of the contract." The contract also offers cost-of-living increases for retirement payments and health coverage for part-time employees. The new raises, including the anticipated contracts for health care workers, will cost about $100 million over three years. County Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen said, "This agreement helps ensure that the county continues to be a desirable, competitive employer that pays each of its employees a wage that it commensurate with their duties." SEIU Local 660 assistant general manager Bart Diener said, "This is a huge victory. Our members, especially the ones that have been around for awhile, are saying this is the best contract they've seen in their lifetime." If approved by union members, the contract will be submitted to the Board of Supervisors for approval (Verdin, Sacramento Bee, 10/27).
In other Los Angeles labor news, unionized nurses and administrators at the city's not-for-profit, 408-bed Good Samaritan Hospital signed their first labor contract Oct. 26, ending a "bruising ... dispute" that followed the December 1998 decision of 530 nurses to join the California Nurses Association, the Los Angeles Times reports. In two years since the union vote, there have been "pickets, a one-day strike, the temporary closure of the hospital's neonatal-care unit and the layoff and eventual rehiring of 40 nurses." Nurses were protesting a proposed pay freeze, a cut of weekend premium pay and the placement of "floating" nurses in departments they had not been trained to work in -- all proposals to which the hospital agreed to compromise. CNA director Rose Ann DeMoro said the contract represents the end of "one of the hardest-fought campaigns" she has seen. Marta Fernandez, an attorney for Good Samaritan, said she was "very satisfied with the contract terms" (Cleeland, Los Angeles Times, 10/27).