Verdugo Hills Hospital nurses vote to join union

Registered nurses at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital on Wednesday voted in favor of joining one of California's largest nursing unions in hopes, they said, of securing better retirement plans, improved staffing and other additional benefits.

Ninety-six nurses, or 72%, voted to join the California Nurses Assn./National Nurses United while 38 cast their ballots in opposition. There are 150 nurses overall at the hospital.

The vote aligns Verdugo Hills staff with approximately 800 nurses at USC's other Southland medical centers, including Keck Hospital and the Norris Cancer Center and Hospital.

"I think the most important part of this agreement is we now actually have a voice for us nurses as a whole," said Justin Mentzer, who's been a nurse at Verdugo Hills for the past two years.

He said nurses in the coming weeks would be electing three of their own to be representatives at the bargaining table.

USC purchased Verdugo Hills last year and nurses from the university's other hospitals suggested the idea of unionizing shortly thereafter, Mentzer said.

Hospital administrators say they are prepared to start negotiations in good faith.

"Once the results are certified by the National Labor Relations Board next week, the hospital will begin preparations for negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with the union," a statement read.

Mentzer said the ideas of what Verdugo Hills nurses actually want are still being solidified, but one thing he would like to see is more frequent contributions to 401K plans as well as raises.

He'd also like to see USC provide 100% HMO health coverage, replacing the current PPO plan they pay into.

"(Added benefits) will help with our staffing retention, it makes us more competitive with other hospitals," Mentzer said.

He said staffing has been another issue and perhaps more can be hired as a result of bargaining to help fill in during breaks.

"I would go multiple shifts without an actual meal break, a whole 12 hours without breaks," Mentzer said.


Follow Arin Mikailian on Twitter: @ArinMikailian.


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