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Health Care

After 4-year struggle, Napa's Queen and union workers agree to first contract

Queen of the Valley Medical Center strike 2019

A large group of Queen of the Valley employees held a 24-hour strike outside the Napa hospital in 2019. Workers, belonging to the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), participated in the walk-out to pressure the hospital to agree to a union contract. This past week, a contract agreement was reached. 

Ending a nearly four-year contract fight, employees who voted to join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) and Napa’s Queen of the Valley Medical Center have reached an agreement for their first contract.

“We are pleased” that caregivers and the Queen voted late this past week to approve a first contract, said a news release from the hospital.

The new contract “reflects the hospital’s commitment to ensuring an exceptional workplace experience for our caregivers,” said Larry Coomes, chief executive at Queen of the Valley.

The union said the contract will boost salaries between 14% and 24% over four years for approximately 460 employees, including nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, medical technicians and housekeepers.

“Several workers will get even larger raises as the hospital puts in place a first-ever wage scale establishing base salaries for their positions,” the union’s news release stated.

In addition to increased wages, workers will receive bonuses ranging from $500 to $1,000, “enforceable occupational health and safety protections” and expanded continuing education benefits, among other benefits, the union stated.

“We fought years for this contract, and it was worth it,” Ray Herrera, a senior radiologic technologist, said in a news release. “This contract will help our hospital retain quality workers, and it will help us to support ourselves and our families.”

“This contract is a testament to our determination and solidarity,” Joy Layson, a nursing assistant, stated in the same news release. “We showed Queen management that we will stand and fight for each other and for our patients. I’ve never been prouder to work with my colleagues at the Queen.”

The process to get to an agreement was prolonged and contentious. Queen of the Valley workers voted to join NUHW in November of 2016.

However, the hospital withdrew recognition of the union four months later, claiming that the National Labor Relations Board disenfranchised workers by conducting the election through the mail.

In 2018, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the hospital to resume bargaining and recognize the union. Last November, Queen of the Valley workers held a strike over the lack of a contract.

This week, Coomes said he was grateful to the hospital and community for their patience and support in reaching an agreement.

“We want to acknowledge and thank all the team members from Queen of the Valley and NUHW who worked together to create a fair and equitable first contract,” said Coomes in the news release. “Your commitment enabled us to get to where we are today.”

You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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