Health care workers at an upstate New York hospital have reason to rejoice – after fighting management for nine months, they have finally won a fair contract.
AFSCME Local 3124 (Council 66) health care workers at Auburn Community Hospital (ACH) overwhelmingly voted on Sept. 17 to ratify the new contract.
In a major win for workers, the agreement creates contractual language for the health insurance plan, ensuring that management cannot take away coverage or increase out-of-pocket expenses without first negotiating with the union. The contract provides annual wage increases and a new weekend pay differential.
“Since negotiations began last fall, it’s been our priority to protect our health coverage by including it in our collective bargaining agreement. This will require ACH to negotiate the impact of any future changes to its employees’ health plan with us,” said Maureen Coleman, president of AFSCME Local 3124 and a respiratory therapist at ACH.
When the union’s previous contract expired in January, management unilaterally increased the deductible for the health care plan from $1,500 to $1,700 ($3,000 to $3,400 for family plans).
As negotiations continued, workers held two well-attended informational pickets to rally the community for a fair contract. (Read AFSCME Now’s coverage of one of those pickets held over the summer). Allied workers from the Cayuga County Labor Council (AFL-CIO) and elected officials from the City of Auburn and Cayuga County provided crucial support throughout this fight.
“We’re incredibly grateful for everyone who stood by us,” Coleman said. “This hospital and the people who work here are important assets to this community. While this agreement is a big step forward, we’ll continue to use our collective voice to raise concerns because patients and residents deserve the very best level of care.”
The new contract will benefit more than 300 workers – including certified nursing assistants, personal care aides, food service workers, cleaners and mechanics – at ACH and the Finger Lakes Center for Living.