URMC Workers To Vote On 3-Year Tentative Agreement Tomorrow, Postponing Second Strike VoteDecember 26, 2023
Press Release: Tuesday, December 26, 2023
Contact: April Ezzell, (716) 449-1620
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
WHO: Patient Caregivers & Student Services Workers at University of Rochester Medical Center and University of Rochester River Campus
WHAT: Contract Ratification Vote
WHEN: Wednesday, December 27, 2023 from 6:00 AM – 7:00 PM
WHERE: LeChase Assembly, G9576 at URMC’s Strong Memorial Hospital
Media Availability at 12:30 PM – 1:00 PM
Press Conference at 7:30 PM
WHY?: Union caregivers and service workers at University of Rochester Medical Center’s (URMC) Strong Memorial Hospital and University of Rochester’s River Campus reached a three-year tentative agreement with their employer last week after a historic 17-hour strike and a massive informational picket 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 a ratification vote set for tomorrow. Details of the agreement will be made public if ratified by union members.
The new tentative labor 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 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.
“We worked very hard as a committee to settle a fair contract for all workers,” said Robin White, Patient Care Technician at URMC’s Strong Memorial Hospital. “I truly believe that this tentative agreement will help to recruit more workers to help us with staffing at the hospital. I’m happy to take the deal back to our members for ratification,” said White.
“After 33 sessions of our hard work and dedication, we think we finally reached a very respectable agreement that we are proud to take back to our members for a vote,” said Angel Hagan-Sprinkle, Cook I, University of Rochester’s River Campus.
“I'm glad that URMC recognized that these patient caregivers and service workers are an essential part of its care team and we believe that recognition is reflected in this agreement. We hope that going forward, URMC appreciates the benefits of having labor representation for its workers to help make improvements to staffing, workplace policies, working conditions, and more. 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. We hope to see more workers at URMC doing the same as Rochester becomes much more of a union town,” said Tracey Harrison, 1199SEIU Vice President.
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.
Staffing concerns are an issue at URMC’s Strong Memorial Hospital. As a level one trauma center, 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.
Workers represented by SEIU Local 200United at the University of Rochester include Building Services, Dining Services, Porters, Cooks, Stack Attendants – Library, Catering Service Assistants, Bus Drivers, Truck Drivers, and Stockkeepers.
Caregivers and service workers represented by 1199SEIU 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.
Both unions worked together to negotiate one agreement that includes fair wage increases that respect the high level of service and support provided 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.
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. 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. 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). 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.