On Oct. 29, 1,800 service workers at UR and Strong Memorial Hospital reached a two-year tentative agreement with employers after months of negotiations. The agreement will be reviewed by the unions and voted on by Nov. 5.
The contracts of the workers, which were established in 2018, expired on Sept. 11 but were extended until Oct. 22.
Workers at UR are represented by SEIU Local 200United, a union of two million workers in New York, Vermont, and Pennsylvania. Workers at Strong Memorial Hospital are represented by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, a healthcare union that represents over 400,000 nurses and caregivers across Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Florida.
Although the specific details of the unions’ demands are not available to the public, workers are generally demanding fair wages, healthcare, childcare, and State of Emergency Pay or COVID-19 Pandemic Pay for employees. As a result of wages stagnating since 2019 and the impact of the pandemic on hospital workers, the union decided to enter negotiations with UR and the hospital. The bargaining committee was formed by peer-elected workers, and the priorities of the committee were decided upon results of contract surveys completed by workers prior to negotiations.
Andre Coleman, a Dining Services worker who has been employed at UR for more than 22 years, summarized the unions’ decision to negotiate a fairer contract for the workers. “It just wasn’t a fair enough agreement for both sides,” Coleman said. “Things were still in and out, you know, taking our time working it out together, to be fair on both sides.”
Prior to an agreement being reached, the workers were planning to picket on Nov. 3, but this has since been cancelled.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that the workers had been bargaining since Oct 22. The union has been bargaining with UR and Strong Memorial Hospital for months but had been bargaining without a contract from the 22nd.