Queen of the Valley Medical Center

Queen of the Valley Medical Center.

A federal judge ordered Queen of the Valley Medical Center to immediately recognize an employee union and resume good-faith bargaining.

The injunction, issued Nov. 30 by U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, forces the Napa hospital back to the bargaining table with 420 workers more than a year after they voted to join the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).

Gonzalez Rogers also ordered the hospital to restore the union’s access to the hospital, permit employees to have union representation and offer one worker back his scheduled shift, which the union argued was changed in retaliation for his union support.

“This is a big victory that validates our determination as workers to stick up for each other and fight for our rights,” said Gabriela Caro, a patient access representative at the Queen. “We’re excited to negotiate a contract.”

In response, Queen CEO Larry Coomes issued a statement. “We are disappointed with the Court’s decision to impose this outcome and respectfully disagree with the Court’s interpretation of the law.”

Queen caregivers, including nursing assistants, pharmacy technicians and respiratory care practitioners, voted in 2016 to join NUHW. An estimated 90 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the election.

Afterward, Coomes said that the hospital didn’t believe that employees had a “free and fair ability to vote in the election.”

This week, Coomes noted that the latest court order “is part of a separate process that does not impact our appeal of 2016 election.”

The hospital has appealed the original union election twice to the National Labor Relations Board. The those two appeals were both denied.

“There is no reason we can’t come together and negotiate a fair contract, and there’s no reason workers in Napa shouldn’t have the same wages, benefits and protections as their colleagues in Santa Rosa and Petaluma,” NUHW President Sal Rosselli said.

“The Hospital has repeatedly offered to bargain with the NUHW so long as our appellate rights were preserved,” Coomes wrote. “The NUHW refused each time.”

“I’m hopeful this injunction will finally convince them to work with us to improve the hospital,” said Becky Dodds, a patient access representative at the Queen. “But if they insist on dragging this through the courts, they should first tell Napa residents how much money they’re wasting on corporate lawyers trying to overturn our election.”

“We remain committed to ensuring our caregivers’ rights were protected in the election and we will continue to do everything we can to conclude this process as swiftly as possible,” Coomes said.

Queen of the Valley is owned by Providence St. Joseph Health, one of the nation’s largest Catholic healthcare systems.

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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.