URMC union workers ratify three-year contract

URMC union workers overwhelmingly ratify contract

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — University of Rochester Medical Center union workers Wednesday overwhelmingly ratified a groundbreaking three-year contract.

Voting ended at 7 p.m. on the new three-year contract for workers at the University of Rochester River Campus and its medical center, and it was a near-unanimous vote of approval with almost 1,000 members voting yes and only 10 voting no. More than 1,800 patient caregivers and student service workers were represented by 1199 SEIU and Local 200.

The contract runs through Sept. 5, 2026.

The contract includes general wage increases of more than 18%, including retro pay back to Sept. 23, 2023, and increases the new-hire starting rate to $17 per hour on Dec. 31, according to a release from 1199SEIU. The release said new hires were earning $15.45 per hour in the lowest pay grade; under the new contract, they will earn $18.38 per hour in the third year of the deal.

General wage hikes will range from 6.98% to 10.58% in the first year, with 4% increases in the second and third years. Also, if non-union employees at URMC get any additional wage increases during the contract, union workers will get the same increase in addition to what they negotiated in the contract, according to 1199SEIU.

Among other elements of the contract, union workers will also have no out-of-pocket costs for healthcare premiums and will receive an increase to their childcare fund benefits. Patient caregivers and materials processing specialists will get job upgrades, including a higher pay rate, and if certified will get an additional hourly wage supplement.

The union vice president credits being a part of a union for providing a strong voice.

“Being part of this union allows you to have a strong voice, so that you can advocate strongly on behalf of yourselves and also the folks that are covered underneath this collective bargaining agreement. that in itself is very, very significant and cannot be overstated. When you look at the overall package with this contract, it is historic to a large degree,” said Tracey Harrison, vice president for 1199SEIU.

The unions were able to create a worker committee to evaluate and develop ongoing programs.

“Congratulations to the workers of 1199SEIU & SEIU Local 200 United on a job well done in standing tall for a fair contract,” said state 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.”

Workers that News10NBC spoke with earlier in the day say they’re excited for this long journey to come to an end.

The two unions have been fighting for what they call a living wage and a better benefits package since late August. And after 33 negotiation sessions, the University of Rochester and both 1199SEIU and Local 200 unions have come to an agreement.

“We’re appreciative of the fact that the employer showed up and did exactly what we knew they could do. And that is start being that example that other employers can follow is very important,” said Tracey Harrison, vice president for 1199SEIU.

On Wednesday, the 1,800 workers voted on whether to ratify the agreement.

With rumors circulating that the nurses at the University of Rochester Medical Center are looking to unionize, the two unions believe they’ve set a good example of that can happen if you want change.

“I hope so, yes. Because that lets them know that we are one, we are unity and we all come together with one voice on sound. And that’s what we showed today. And we’ve had a showdown over these 30 sessions. So I feel like, yes, if someone wants to become union unionized 100%, I feel like they should,” said April Shepherd, patient care technician.

The tentative agreement was reached after caregivers and student service workers went on a 17-hour strike earlier this month.

Video from 7 p.m. broadcast, before the vote count was taken and the results announced:

URMC union members vote to ratify contract

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