Our 250 members at Greater Regional Medical Center have reached agreement on a new two-year contract that includes solid 3 percent pay raises in both years.
The GRMC caregivers won the contract after a six-month campaign that included intensive public outreach—and the public responded by giving us strong support. In late June, just a week before we reached a tentative agreement, one GRMC ER patient wrote a letter to the local paper thanking our members for saving her life after she’d suffered an aneurysm. She urged the hospital to protect care for others by reaching a fair contract with us.
We also received strong support from our sisters and brothers in the Western Iowa Labor Federation, who stood with us at the hospital’s April board meeting as we made a powerful presentation to the board. Soon after that meeting, the hospital pledged that it would maintain all our benefits except longevity pay.
We worked hard to win back longevity pay and get GRMC’s benefit pledge included in our contract. But unfortunately, the anti-union law passed by the Iowa state legislature in 2017 let the administration refuse to negotiate over anything except wages. With that state law severely limiting our leverage, we focused on pay raises in our final bargaining session in early July and won an immediate 3 percent pay raise this year and another 3 percent raise that takes effect July 1, 2019.
While those 3 percent raises are a real victory, the destructive impact of the 2017 state law makes it clear what all Local 199 members need to focus on going forward. We need work on replacing Iowa’s extreme anti-worker politicians with public servants who’ll stand up for working people. We need a just law in place that restores fairness at the bargaining table for every Iowa worker.
Still, even with the table tilted against the GRMC workers this year, our public campaign allowed us to make impressive gains in and out of bargaining. In the final weeks before we reached our tentative agreement, chapter president Cassie Wilmeth spread our positive message widely in the Creston News Advertiser and got a flood of positive responses.
During our campaign at GRMC, we learned that there is still powerful backing for working people in Iowa. Together we’re building a movement with the strength to win fairness for workers not only at GRMC but all across Iowa.