Some 600 Hospital Workers in Northern California Join AFSCME

Nearly 600 medical workers in Northern California opted to join AFSCME Council 57, a victory that will strengthen their efforts to improve the services they provide to their communities.

By affiliating with the nation’s largest public service union on November 16, workers at Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee, California, will have better resources and a stronger, unified voice. The workers were approached by two other labor unions but chose AFSCME due to the union’s record of service to public employees.

“Now that we have joined with AFSCME, management won't be able to change the rules whenever it suits them. They hold us accountable. We will now hold them accountable as well,” said Eileen Riotto, a pre-admittance nurse who has been working at the hospital for 17 years. “It's all about taking good care of our patients in a fair work environment.”

Many of the employees enjoy working at the hospital because it serves a small but close-knit community, Riotto said. Truckee is also a great place to live, being situated near the Sierra Nevada Mountains. But many workers can’t afford to live there and are forced to commute from nearby towns, she said.

When the hospital recently brought in a new CEO, things started to change, especially how employees were treated. Many longtime workers could see the writing on the wall that the small, community hospital was starting to lose its soul as harsh, anti-worker policies were being implemented, Riotto said.

“We don’t need that negativity. We need support,” she said. “We live here. We take care of our families and neighbors, and we all deserve the best care, whether it’s in the hospital rooms or at the negotiating table.”

One policy the members want to fix is scheduling. For example, new employees must agree to work “flex hours,” which means management can schedule them to work extra hours – often without the employees’ input. Because many members have second jobs, the scheduling policy creates a lot of distress and reduces the time workers spend with their families and on other obligations.

“We'd like not to be forced into working the extra hours against our will,” Riotto said.

The organizing effort spanned nearly a year. Over that period, members have begun to work together like never before as they make workers’ rights and providing the best care to patients an even bigger priority.

This victory in Truckee is especially important as AFSCME continues to organize throughout Californiaand fight back against the attacks on working people coming from the wealthiest 1 percent of the population, corporations and the politicians who put special interests above the needs of their communities.

The fight isn’t over, however.

Over the next several months, Council 57 and the Tahoe Forest members will be standing together to make sure the hospital recognizes the new members’ concerns and follows through on its promise to bargain in good faith.