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Sequoia hospital workers come away from strike victorious

Photo Credit: Andrew Dudenbostel
Sequoia hospital workers come away from strike victorious
By Pete Levine ·

More than 300 health care workers at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, California, have unanimously ratified a four-year contract with their employer, Dignity Health.

The health care workers had been on strike since July 18 and ended it Friday.

The new contract not only prevents Dignity Health from unilaterally raising health care costs but states that any future premium increases need to be negotiated – a first within the Dignity Health system. Workers will pay nothing for health care until 2025. The new contract comes with a 16% wage increase over four years, as well as a $1,500 signing bonus.

The hospital also agreed to improve staffing for certified nursing assistants, which will lead to more manageable caseloads and result in better patient care.

The workers, members of AFSCME Local 829 (Council 57), include lab technicians, nursing assistants, surgical techs, respiratory therapists, housekeepers, cooks and many others. They had voted overwhelmingly to go on strike when four months of contract negotiations with the leadership of Dignity Health had failed.

Conditions for both workers and patients were untenable. Unsafe staffing levels prevented workers from delivering high-quality care, compensation was below what other comparable employers were paying and workers were facing skyrocketing health insurance premiums.

“Dignity threatened to take away our health coverage, but we stood strong and showed them that we could not be broken,” said Jackie Garcia, a surgical technician at Sequoia Hospital. “They promised they'd never remove the language on health premiums, but our unity won the day and they removed it. This is a victory for the patients and the staff who will come after us. This is going to be a stronger, safer and better place to seek and provide care.”

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