T – 3 Weeks Till Our Contract Expires

This article is reprinted from the Speak Out Now healthcare newsletter at Kaiser and Highland Hospitals in Oakland, CA.

In 3 weeks, on May 31, our SEIU 1021 contracts expire at Alameda Health System. Here at Highland, most workers, despite holding different job titles and responsibilities, are united under the same union. So when we strike, the majority of hospital workers walk off the job, which is much more of a threat to the boss and the daily functioning of the hospital, and can lead to better outcomes in the contract.

But it takes a number of important factors to win a strong contract. A vital piece is an organized and fighting union. Union officials tell us that to build such a union, we have to get involved in the struggle for our contract, and get organized among ourselves to fight back against contract violations. Yet there is a veil of secrecy around the contract proposals that our union has presented to hospital management. Why can’t we see these contract proposals for ourselves? Why are we not receiving daily updates about what’s happening at the negotiating table? The most recent May Day update sent to SEIU 1021 members is the most information we have received since bargaining began in December 2023, and this update is only bullet points of vague demands, without any of the fine details of our proposals.

If our union is to be a fighting one, one that wins the contract we deserve, then we need open and transparent bargaining. Updates should be sent daily, and even several times a day, as negotiations heat up toward contract expiration. In three weeks, AHS workers may be asked to put their livelihoods on the line and strike for the contract we deserve. The call to strike should not come out of nowhere. Transparent bargaining will empower us and ready us to fight!