A seven-year labor struggle ended this week when Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital officials declared they were ready to negotiate with the National Union of Healthcare Workers.
Hospital executives officially conceded Wednesday after learning that the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., had certified NUHW as the winner of a union election in December 2009.
Negotiations between the hospital and the union would affect 700 technical, service and maintenance workers at Memorial Hospital.
"This has been a long time coming. I'm really hopeful and I think that we can make some positive things happen here," said Melissa BoSanco, a Memorial oncology care partner. "We want to get back some of the things that were lost recently to employees — positions, benefits, things like that."
BoSanco said NUHW, which is a spin-off of the Oakland-based health care workers' local affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, will likely conduct an employee survey to determine what issues labor negotiators will bring to the bargaining table.
Workers affected by negotiations include radiology and respiratory technicians, nurses' aides, housekeepers and dietary workers. Those who voted had the choice of NUHW, SEIU or no union at all.
The NUHW received 283 votes, while SEIU got only 13. The choice of opting for neither union — supported by the hospital administration — won 263 votes. The NUHW need a single vote greater than 50 percent to win.
The hospital administration said Thursday it would abide by the federal labor board's decision and begin bargaining with the union. After the election, hospital administration called for the election to be "set aside" because of what it said were election irregularities. Hospital attorneys took the objections to the NLRB.
"We were honoring our employees that asked us to file objections," said Debra Miller, the hospital's vice president of human resources. "We are now moving forward and will commence negotiating in good faith with NUHW."
Miller sent NUHW president Sal Roselli a letter Wednesday stating that "It is our hope that those negotiations can take place expeditiously and constructively."
Miller said Thursday that during negotiations she hopes the union will be mindful of the views of the 263 hospital employees who voted for no union.
"They have an issue to deal with because they didn't win the election overwhelmingly," said Miller.
BoSanco said the union will seek input from everyone, including those who voted against union representation.
"We're respectful of everyone's wishes," she said.
The effort to unionize non-nursing staff at Memorial Hospital began seven years ago and was headed by the United Healthcare Workers West, an SEIU affiliate. In late 2004, SEIU filed a petition to represent service and technical employees.
A number of Memorial Hospital employees now with NUHW had participated in the organizing effort under the UHWW-SEIU banner. But in early 2009, SEIU took full control of the Oakland-based UHWW and removed it's leaders, including Roselli. The actions splintered the regional union and fueled the growth of the NUHW.
Many key SEIU faithful at Memorial threw their support behind NUHW.