Nurses reach new contract agreement

USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, Calif. ratified a contract Thursday, effective immediately, with the California Nurses Association. The CNA represents the hospital’s more than 300 registered nurses.

The agreement comes after RNs employed at the hospital held an informational picket and car caravan Feb. 23, for understaffing and inadequate coronavirus protection. More than 90 RNs across various hospital departments used their work breaks to participate in the picket. 

USC-VHH has seen a 40% turnover rate since 2019. One of the chief concerns for participating RNs was the shortage of nurses willing to risk their license by working in conditions that may have put them in contact with coronavirus-positive patients in hospital hallways. As a result of short-staffed departments, several units were taking in and rooming patients from other units, which placed additional pressure on workers.

After contract negotiations paused abruptly at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, nurses signed a two-year contract. As the contract neared its end, nurses demonstrated their demands in hopes of establishing a new contract that would retain and recruit experienced nurses. Negotiations for the new contract, a union representative said, began again last December.

“The past two years have been especially challenging, and our registered nurses have responded with compassion, skill and resilience,” said Chief Nursing Officer Theresa Murphy in a Friday press release from Keck Medicine of USC.

The new contract includes safer floating practices, annual wage increases, a new infectious disease task force and safer practices for coronavirus patients, including negative pressure rooms and additional personal protective equipment. 

“As we enter year three of the pandemic, this new contract will help keep everyone in our hospital safe and healthy,” said Esther Hathaway, an ICU nurse at Verdugo Hills Hospital, in a CNA/NNU press release Friday. “Some of the key wins we fought for will make our hospital a better place to work for nurses, which will make it a better place for patients, too.”

The contract will be in place through Dec. 31, 2024. 

“We fought for these wins,” said emergency department RN Lisa Harris in the CNA/NNU press release. “We showed management that we’re united with one voice, that we’re done with risking our licenses, and that we’re done risking patient safety.”