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Catholic Healthcare West Honored for Labor Practices that Promote Quality Patient Care
Workers’ rights advocacy group recognizes profitable companies that respect workers’ unions at awards ceremony on 3/31

March 30, 2005

Kimberly Freeman
202-822-2127, ext. 111
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WASHINGTON, DC—While many employers are adopting business practices that cut benefits and suppress the rights of employees to negotiate the terms of their working conditions through unions, others have taken the high road.

At an awards ceremony on March 31, national workers’ rights advocacy group American Rights at Work will honor Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) for negotiating one of the most innovative union contracts in the industry.  The agreement serves as a model for how investment in employee development and input in work practices can translate into quality patient care.

“As the largest healthcare provider in California, Catholic Healthcare West is showing its competitors that good business starts with respecting workers’ rights,” says David Bonior, Chair of American Rights at Work.

In June 2004, the company agreed to a four-year statewide agreement with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  The contract covers 14,000 employees at 28 facilities in the state, and goes far beyond the bread-and-butter issues of workers.  The contract includes measures designed to improve patient care, such as joint labor-management committees to solve staffing issues; a $4 million training fund; and wage and benefit increases to recruit, retain, and develop a highly-skilled workforce.  In addition, the company agreed to remain neutral during employee efforts to organize.

The road was rocky before the company, employees, and SEIU reached this cooperative relationship.  CHW initially resisted efforts by its employees to form a union.  But in April 2001, CHW and SEIU signed a pivotal agreement covering 45 institutions in California and Nevada.  The agreement provided for a fair process of running union representation elections and banned supervisor one-on-one meetings, which are frequently used by employers to advise employees against organizing. 

In recognition of these achievements, American Rights at Work will honor Catholic Healthcare West at its first annual Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Awards ceremony on March 31.  Ernest H. Urquhart, Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer, will accept the award.  Ingela Dahlgren, a registered nurse from a CHW hospital in Northridge, CA, will also attend.

The award is named after Eleanor Roosevelt, a long-time union member who was instrumental in the passage of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the right to form and join trade unions.”  Says Bonior, “The award celebrates individuals and organizations like Catholic Healthcare West that advance the understanding of workers’ rights as a cornerstone of human rights and social justice.”

Other honorees include Harley-Davidson-Motor Company, visionary artist and activist Ossie Davis, and the Student Labor Action Project. Actor Brad Whitford of NBC’s “The West Wing,” who is also an American Rights at Work board member, will serve as Master of Ceremonies for the event at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC on March 31.

For additional information on American Rights at Work and the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Awards ceremony, please contact Kimberly Freeman at 202-822-2127 ext. 111 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .