BREAKING NEWS: We Did It! Watts workers reach new contract, strike averted

Another Union Win for SEIU 721 Members!

Watts Health Center employees had a marathon final day of bargaining and reached a tentative agreement, beating back the most severe proposed rate increases to family healthcare coverage and securing investment in the frontline health services they provide.

Their impressive victory comes after months of on-the-ground organizing by frontline workers, patients, community leaders, and elected officials.

“It was tough but we held strong and we won a fair contract that has some big improvements,” Shelley Butler, a LVN said. “I am so glad that we were able to hold them back from big increases to healthcare costs for our co-workers with children.”

For over 50 years, Watts Health Center has been a cornerstone of the South LA community, providing life-saving care to the region’s most vulnerable low-income residents. When the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep through South Los Angeles neighborhoods, Watts workers were among the first on the frontlines providing testing and care to local residents.

At the same time, Watts management had initially proposed cutting employee sick time in half and raising the cost of family healthcare coverage, even as multiple novel coronavirus outbreaks spread throughout Watts Healthcare facilities. The grave threats faced by Watts workers and patients, paired with management’s all-out union-busting campaign of intimidation and surveillance, led workers to authorize an Unfair Labor Practice Strike just weeks ago with an unprecedented 100% Yes vote.

“During bargaining management was disrespectful. They harassed us, they threatened us but we didn’t back down,” Watts Utilization Review Specialist Mireya Holder said. “Our bargaining team fought hard for our co-workers and our patients and we came out with a good tentative agreement.”

Their 11th-hour victory is a triumph for workers and patients alike. Watts Healthcare workers reflect the community they serve, with the workforce composed mostly of working-class black and brown women. Their steadfast commitment to community health is borne out of deep ties to the surrounding area, with many living and working in Watts for decades.

When we fight, we win!

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