URMC Workers Overwhelmingly Ratify Three-Year Ground-Breaking Contract Averting Second Longer Strike

December 29, 2023

1199, 200 United.pngPRESS RELEASE: Wednesday, December 27, 2023
Contact: April Ezzell, (716) 449-1620, 1199SEIU Communications 


Union workers at URMC joined a growing national movement of workplace strikes to demand living wages and quality comprehensive benefits to help retain and recruit more workers to help with staffing issues and to uplift some workers out of poverty

NYS Assemblymember Meeks Calls Agreement Historic Win Closer To Establishing Living Wage in Greater Rochester

New York: More than 1,800 patient caregivers and student service workers at University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and University of Rochester’s River Campus overwhelmingly voted to ratify a new three-year labor contract averting a second and longer strike. Workers are represented by 1199SEIU at the hospital and SEIU Local 200 United at the campus. 

Workers at URMC were first organized into the labor union 49 years ago.  

The new three-year contract comes as an uptick in union organizing begins at URMC.  More recently, URMC graduate workers joined a growing trend across the country[1] to begin organizing to form their union[2].  

Workers at URMC were able to stand up and demand dignity and respect by negotiating their own contract and that gives them a real voice on the job,” said Tracey Harrison, 1199SEIU Vice President.  “We hope to see more workers at URMC doing the same as Rochester becomes much more of a union town,” said Harrison.  

“The improvements we won for workers in this contract will improve the lives our union members and their families,” said Robin White, Patient Care Technician at URMC’s Strong Memorial Hospital and 1199SEIU Delegate. “It will also attract more workers to fill vacancies reducing our heavy workload.  With our new contract language in place, we will be able to work more as a team with hospital leaders,” said White. 

“Congratulations to the workers of 1199SEIU & SEIU Local 200 United on a job well done in standing tall for a fair contract,” said NYS Assemblymember Demond Meeks. “I truly appreciate that all parties were able to come to favorable agreement and settle this historic contract as 1199SEIU embark on their 50th anniversary at URMC. I firmly believe that this contract will prove beneficial not only to the members of the union, but too the community at large. These improvements will help to lift workers out of poverty and into good paying union jobs in our community. Many of these workers historically have worked multiple shifts and multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. I believe this contract will get us that much closer to establishing a living wage in Greater Rochester and I pray that it has a snowball effect throughout the region,” said Meeks.

“Moving forward, our workers should not be stressed about providing for their families and making ends meet,” said Angel Hagan-Sprinkle, Cook I at University of Rochester’s River Campus.  “With these new wages, our employer will be able to recruit more workers to help with staffing and to relieve the pressure from the current workers who are experiencing burn out,” said Hagan-Sprinkle. 

The new labor contract includes significant wage increases that respect the high level of service and support workers provide throughout the hospital and campus.  Better wages and a quality comprehensive benefit package will also help to retain and recruit more workers and alleviate staffing concerns across URMC. The improvements in this contract are ground-breaking and part of a national[3] trend as workers join labor unions to negotiate wages, benefits and workplace policies. 

 The 3-year labor deal includes general wage increases of more than 18%, including retro pay back to September 23, 2023 and increases the new hire starting rate to $17.00 per hour on December 31st.  New hires were earning $15.45 per hour in the lowest pay grade and by the end of the third year of the contract will earn $18.38 per hour which is closer to a living wage in Monroe County. 

In year one, general wage increases range from 6.98% to 10.58%and years two and three include a general wage increase of 4% each year.  If non-union employees at URMC receive any additional wage increases during this contract, union workers receive the same increase in addition to what workers negotiated in this contract. 

Quality benefits were key to contract talks.  Union workers secured healthcare benefits with no out of pocket costs for healthcare premiums.  Members will also receive an increase to their childcare fund benefits, allowing them to care for their families while at work.   

Patient caregivers and materials processing specialists will see job upgrades to include a higher pay rate.  In addition, if certified, they will receive an additional hourly wage supplement ranging from $0.50 to $2.15 per hour to help retain and recruit more workers into these skilled service positions at the hospital.  

To improve staffing, workers won a reduction in probation time when moving from one classification to another and reduced the amount of time for temporary employees.  This contract language essentially allows workers to become full-time benefited employees faster to help permanently fill vacancies across URMC and to provide workers with more stability to care for their family. 

In addition, workers also won an increase in Training Pay to $1.75 per hour, increase in adult education hours, increase in uniform allowance, and an increase to shift differential if implemented across URMC.  

Workers also fought to reduce the amount of time that verbal disciplines stay on file.  Union members also improved contract language protecting workers from discrimination. Workers also added language to address dignity and respect on the job, establishing a worker committee to evaluate and develop ongoing programs. 

 The new agreement runs through September 5, 2026.

Workers represented by SEIU Local 200United at the University of Rochester’s River Campus include Building Services, Dining Services, Porters, Cooks, Stack Attendants – Library, Catering Service Assistants, Bus Drivers, Truck Drivers, and Stockkeepers.   

Patient caregivers and service workers represented by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East at Strong Memorial Hospital include Environmental Service Workers, Nursing Assistants, Cooks, Food Service Workers, Dietary Workers, Dental Assistants, Drivers, Patient Care Technicians, Materials Processing Specialists, Patient Unity Secretaries, Porters, Stockkeepers, Transport Assistants, Transportation Center Workers, Truck Drivers, and Unit Support Assistants. 

On Background:

Union caregivers and service workers at University of Rochester Medical Center’s (URMC) Strong Memorial Hospital and University of Rochester’s River Campus reached the three-year tentative agreement with their employer following a historic 17-hour strike[4] and a massive informational picket[5] outside of URMC’s Strong Memorial Emergency Room.  Caregivers and service workers were fighting for a fair contract from Upstate New York’s largest private sector employer to include fair living wage increases and a quality comprehensive benefits package to help recruit and retain more workers to help with staffing issues since late August.  

Hospital caregivers and campus service workers were set to vote on a second longer 3-day (72-hour) strike last week, but instead postponed their strike vote to review details of the Tentative Agreement at the ratification vote.  

The new agreement comes after 4 months of intense negotiations, including 33 day-long bargaining sessions between 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, 200United SEIU and the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC).  Contract talks between the two unions and management began late August (8/22). 

Following multiple extensions, the previous contract covering URMC patient caregivers and service workers expired October 31. As tensions continued to escalate, workers held a massive informational picket[6] and rally on November 13, a near unanimous strike authorization vote on November 21 and a 17-hour strike on December 13.  The two unions were negotiating on behalf of 1,800 workers.

1199SEIU and SEIU Local 200United and URMC were at odds over a living wage for workers and a quality comprehensive benefits package to help recruit and retain more workers to care for patients and to provide services for students and to alleviate staffing concerns across the system.  

The labor dispute at URMC, Rochester’s largest employer was not the first in the area.  The public labor dispute with URMC happened just as Nurses at Rochester General ratified a 42-month agreement, averting a second strike over wages and staffing.[7]  

Staffing concerns are an issue at URMC’s Strong Memorial Hospital.  As a level one trauma center[8], proper staffing is key to quality care and timely services for patients. Without living wages and benefits, it is very difficult to recruit staff to fill vacancies and to keep workers there.  

A family of three (with one child) where both adults are working must earn $19.16 per hour or more to earn a living wage in Monroe County.[9] At URMC, the state’s sixth largest employer and the largest employer in Rochester, hundreds of caregivers and service workers are earning considerably less while top leaders are earning millions.  

University of Rochester must do better by its workers to provide a living wage that helps to recruit and retain workers into sustainable long term healthcare jobs amid shortages across the state.  URMC leaders must factor in the cost of healthcare, transportation, childcare and other needs workers must have in place to maintain their employment and care for their families.  Care team workers who ensure the health & safety of patients and students in our community earning less than a living wage include nursing assistants, environmental service workers, cashiers, caterers, food service workers, and nutrition assistants.  

URMC has spent millions purchasing buildings & increasing salaries for its top leaders as caregivers and service workers fight for a living wage. Since 2020, University of Rochester and its affiliates have invested more than $74 million dollars in real estate purchases including College Town[10]In 2021, during the COVID pandemic, URMC’s top leaders earned sizeable salaries ranging from $543,000 to $3.3 million dollars per year (including deferred compensation).[11]It’s time that URMC invest in workers who provide the care and services that keep our hospital and campus community healthy.

In October, members from both labor unions participated in Meliora Weekend events to let the public know about their contract dispute. Hundreds of URMC alumnae and supporters signed an online public petition demanding that URMC agree to a fair contract settlement for its workers. 



1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. We represent over 400,000 nurses and caregivers throughout Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Florida. Our mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all.

SEIU Local 200United, a union of thousands of members who are working people striving for fair and just workplaces and communities.  We represent two million members in New York, Vermont, and Pennsylvania in the public and private sector. 

[1] Cornell graduate students poised to join nationwide union wave - The Ithaca Voice
[2] U of R graduate students looking to unionize - WHEC.com
[3] Spotlighting apparent trend of health care industry strikes (spectrumlocalnews.com)
[4] URMC, union workers will return to bargaining table Monday following one-day strike | WHAM (13wham.com)
[5] Potential strike coming from URMC employees - WHEC.com
[6] Potential strike coming from URMC employees - WHEC.com
[7] Five-day RGH nurses strike averted: Tentative deal reached on union contract | WHAM (13wham.com)
[8] About Us - University of Rochester Medical Center
[9] Living Wage Calculator - Living Wage Calculation for Rochester, NY (mit.edu)
[10] University of Rochester purchases College Town : News Center
[11] University Of Rochester - Full Filing- Nonprofit Explorer - ProPublica