Frontline staff at Allegheny General Hospital voted overwhelmingly this month to approve a new three-year union contract that includes major improvements to achieve the goals of quality patient care and quality jobs.
The contract increases staffing levels in many areas, freezes health insurance costs and substantially increases wages to recruit and retain qualified staff. 1,600 technical, service and clerical workers, including nursing assistants, x-ray techs, nuclear medicine techs, respiratory therapists, MRI techs, surgical techs, hospital housekeepers, food service workers, medical records clerks and others are covered by the new agreement.
After voting to join the union three years ago, the workers had made significant progress in their first contract by working collaboratively with management, and this second contract builds on that foundation.
“This victory really shows the difference that having a union makes,” said Valerie Fehl, a certified occupational therapy assistant who has lived in Pittsburgh for the past 15 years. “In this contract, occupational therapy assistants are getting a major wage increase and our healthcare costs are frozen. We also achieved ways to work with management to optimize staffing, job training and department operations. For our department, that means we can keep good staff and offer the best care to our patients. For me personally, it means I’ll be able to quit my second job that I work on the weekends and spend more time with my three-year-old son and husband. For Pittsburgh, it means more solid middle-class jobs. That’s what unions are all about.”
Among many improvements, the union and management worked together to create additional positions for nursing assistants, ultrasound technologists, nuclear medicine technologists, CT technologists and others; frozen healthcare costs for three years and a reduction of premiums for lower-wage workers; minimum raises of at least 3% a year and others receiving significantly more; and a range of avenues for frontline staff to work with management to improve department operations, job training and staffing levels.
“I was born at AGH, four of my children were born here, and I live just a few blocks away – My family has deep roots in this community, and the whole reason I’m in this profession is because I love caring for my neighbors,” said Chevonne Mott, a nursing assistant on the AGH cardiac floor. “Through our union contract negotiations, we were able to work with management to improve quality care for our patients and increase financial stability for hospital workers. We’re getting a lot more direct caregivers on the floors to make sure patients are getting the personalized care they deserve. We ensured contractually a $15 minimum wage and substantial raises for all workers, and those raises aren’t going to be eaten away by increasing healthcare costs. With our union, we’re making sure that frontline AGH staff can share in the network’s burgeoning success so Pittsburgh patients and working families are moving forward as well.”