Kaiser nurses reach tentative labor agreement with Los Angeles Medical Center

Nurses at the Los Angeles Medical Center are set to get a pay raise, overtime protections and more professional support under the terms of a tentative collective bargaining agreement struck Thursday.

In reaching the agreement, the California Nurses Assn., the union representing 1,200 registered nurses employed at the hospital, and Kaiser Permanente, which owns the Hollywood facility, ended 17 months of contract negotiations that included two short-term strikes.

“The nurses felt relieved that all of the issues and concerns that they have raised across the table have now gotten to fruition,” said the union’s co-president and bargaining team chair, Zenei Cortez.

A spokeswoman for Kaiser Permanente confirmed in an email that the healthcare provider reached a deal and said it would wait until the agreement was approved before releasing further details.

The nurses union had argued that the hospital was understaffed, forcing nurses to “float” to other departments where they were not as experienced and negatively affecting patient care. The union had also called for a new wage and benefits package; a union representative previously told The Times that nurses received their last pay increase in 2011.

The proposed agreement includes an across-the-board pay raise of 34% over the next four years, Cortez said. It also prevents mandatory overtime and protects nurses’ current healthcare and pension benefits. Wages vary with experience and seniority, but the average annual wage for a registered nurse in California in 2015 was $101,260, according to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The agreement limits the use of floating nurses and includes provisions to hire additional staff nurses locally. It also establishes a “professional practice committee” — an elected group of nurses who will discuss concerns about patient care and safety with hospital management. 

This is the Kaiser nurses’ first collective bargaining agreement with the California Nurses Assn., after joining the union in 2015. The union’s bargaining team voted unanimously to approve the agreement, and staff nurses at the Los Angeles Medical Center are set to vote on the package Tuesday and Wednesday.

If ratified, the agreement marks another victory in California for organized labor, which has seen gains in the state despite a decades-long decline in membership nationally. The California Nurses Assn. successfully fought to make California the first state in the country to require a minimum patient-to-nurse ratio, with the law taking effect in 2004. It has seen its membership grow by 400% over the last 15 years, according to its website.

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UPDATES:

1:40 p.m.: This article was updated with a response from Kaiser Permanente.

This article was originally published at 11:30 a.m.

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