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2005: Catholic Healthcare West
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American Rights at Work honors Catholic Healthcare West for its leadership in developing one of the most innovative union contracts. The agreement demonstrates how investment in employee development and involvement can translate into quality patient care

Founded in 1986, Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) is the largest healthcare employer in California. In June 2004, it 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 unions. The agreement also called for joint labor-management efforts to improve U.S. healthcare policy.