Local 315 Members Win New Contract Despite Challenges With Socially Distant Negotiations

Our AFSCME Local 315 sisters and brothers continue to show that workers’ voices can’t be silenced in the Eastern Sierra, as the local’s newest bargaining unit won its first contract in September.

The local’s technical unit at Northern Inyo Hospital District—which comprises about 250 patient care, technical, service and business office employees—spent nearly eight months in negotiations and used sheer will and solidarity in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic to get stronger job security, safer working conditions and a raise for members whose wages have been frozen for many years.

Oftentimes, they faced an uphill battle because the pandemic created a lot of financial turmoil for both the hospital district and workers—just like in many parts of the state. But our sisters and brothers won their seat at the table even though the pandemic prevented them from meeting in person to make their case in front of management.

“We’re proud of the contract we negotiated,” said Carrie Rivera, a Local 315 member and one of the members of the local’s bargaining team. “While the district’s financial situation made negotiations extremely difficult, we’re proud that the fruits of our labor locked in significant protections for employees.”

For years, our sisters and brothers made complaints about the hospital district’s harsh policies that lacked fairness and transparency and didn’t support the recruitment and retention of skilled caregivers—a promise the hospital district’s management made when it built its new state-of-the art facility.

The nurses were the first to take a stand. Last year, the technical unit got the California State Mediation and Conciliation Service to officially certify the members as a new bargaining unit of Local 315. Together with the nurses, they have now helped the majority of workers at the Northern Inyo Hospital District become unionized.

The members now have rights to have union stewards, a bargaining committee and bulletin boards in the workplace to share the union difference with other workers.

Their contract puts limits on outsourcing public services to private companies.

The new contract also creates standards for lunch and break periods, as well as how work hours are scheduled—something that is too often taken for granted in today’s workplaces.

Most importantly, the contract guarantees fairness and respect through due process, ensuring that all workers can voice their concerns without worrying about losing their jobs.

"The reason why we fought so hard for a fair contract was because we needed to know we will be taken care of as part of the team and not just treated like workers who are expendable," said Dean Lewis, a network systems engineer and Local 315 member.