L.A. County Board of Supervisors yet to approve tentative agreement with LAC+USC residents

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has not yet approved the tentative agreement reached June 5 between L.A. County and residents at the L.A. County+USC Medical Center. The agreement, which secured a pay raise of 5.5% for all housestaff in the first year and subsequent 3.25% increases for two years, passed a ratification vote among the resident membership but has stalled in the process of ratification by L.A. County, meaning residents have not yet received the benefits agreed to in the deal.

Following months of bargaining on a new contract, the tentative agreement was reached three days after the residents, represented by the Committee of Interns and Residents/Service Employees International Union, gave L.A. County notice of an unfair labor practice strike set to take place between June 13 and June 15. The move to authorize a strike was motivated by alleged bad faith bargaining — including canceled bargaining sessions, coming unprepared to sessions and presenting little or no movement on the residents’ proposals — on the part of L.A. County representatives.

The delay in ratification from L.A. County is stirring frustration among LAC+USC housestaff, who believed their fight for higher pay and increased benefits — such as the agreement’s $3,000 increase in annual housing stipends — was over, said Dr. Frances Gill, a second year psychiatry resident at LAC+USC and a member of the resident union’s bargaining team this spring.

“People are hungry for it, and they’re ready,” Gill said. “Everyone’s pretty pissed that we’ve fought so hard to win these things, and now it’s taking forever for that to actually get paid out.”

The resident union has begun to take action to get the ratification vote for the agreement — which Gill called a “rubber stamp,” a formality — on the Board of Supervisors’ agenda. The matter is not on the agenda for the board’s next meeting, which is set for Tuesday. 

“We’ve been twiddling our thumbs and [asking], ‘When is this going to happen?’” Gill said. “It’s now gotten to the point where it’s taken long enough that we are, again, having to raise a little bit of escalating pressure.”

The residents participated in an email action during which more than 500 members — nearly half of the bargaining unit — emailed the Board of Supervisors in less than 24 hours, calling on the board to move forward with ratification.

“We’re trying to raise a little bit of awareness among our membership because people can get disillusioned,” Gill said. “They’re like, ‘Oh, I thought we won all these things, but now my bank account still doesn’t have any money in it.’”

In a statement to the Daily Trojan, a representative of the L.A. County Chief Executive Office wrote that the approval and ratification process for contracts and agreements typically takes two to three months.

“That timeframe can be longer when many contracts are being negotiated and finalized simultaneously,” the statement read. “This year the County has reached agreements with 32 bargaining units, and is still negotiating with 31 others.”

The CEO also noted several economic trigger dates included in the tentative agreement reached with CIR: cost-of-living increases will begin  Oct. 1 and additional adjustments will start on Oct.  1, 2023, and the housing allowance bonus had a set trigger payout date of July 1. Following standard practice, the bonus will be paid out retroactively, the statement read, once the Board of Supervisors approves the agreement. All CIR member-residents will receive a $1,375 signing bonus at the end of the month.

The delay in agreement ratification is an “unacceptable” pattern the resident union has seen in past contract renegotiation periods, Gill said, and a matter of the board’s priorities. Residents and fellows are employed for short periods of time, she said, with most finishing their residency within three years, so any delay in receiving higher pay is significant. 

“At the end of the day, a lot of people in political power don’t prioritize the needs of workers,” Gill said. “It’s like, what do you choose to pay attention to? What do you choose to agendize? What do you choose to get taken care of, and what do you not? And I think that that’s really what it comes down to.”

Gill said she’s glad to have seen political support of the residents’ battle for higher pay, with CIR-endorsed candidates joining the resident union at the contract negotiations and the union’s strike authorization vote held in May. CIR-endorsed L.A. City Council 2023 candidate Hugo Soto-Martinez, who won the primary for Council District 13 this month, has engaged with the residents’ effort and expressed his support in a Tweet after the tentative agreement was reached, writing, “When we fight we win!” 

“We’re putting the political pressure on, which I’ll also say is important because we’re public employees, and public employees negotiating their contracts with their duly elected public officials is the engine that transforms society,” Gill said. “That’s how we lift the floor, that’s how we lift the wages for everybody.”

If the ratification continues to be kept off the Board of Supervisors’ meeting agendas, Gill said the resident union may organize more actions to increase pressure on L.A. County, such as a press conference, a rally, a 10-minute walkout or a call-in campaign. 

After Tuesday, the next Board of Supervisors meeting is set to take place August 9, for which an agenda has not yet been published.