Schirin Rangnick

Yale New Haven Hospital and the hospital’s cafeteria workers union have signed a new five-year contract that extends through 2023.

The New England Health Care Employees Union, which is District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, represents 268 employees at the hospital. Richard D’Aquila, president of YNHH and Yale New Haven Health System, said in an April 4 press release that the hospital is committed to working with all YNHH employees and their unions.

“The agreement between SEIU and YNHH solidifies our commitment to a positive, collaborative relationship,” he said in the release. “I know I speak for our entire senior leadership when I say that we are committed to working with all YNHH employees, including those represented by our unions, to honor the critical role our employees, physicians, and management staff play in making YNHH a destination hospital.”

According to the release, the contract, which runs retroactively from Jan. 1, 2019 through the end of 2023, was settled by bargaining committees for both the hospital and members of the union.

Hugh Edwards, the hospital’s assistant chef and lead union delegate, said the hard work from both bargaining committees resulted in a fair contract.

“The mutual respect demonstrated throughout contract talks is a positive and powerful step in continuing the strong collaboration for the future,” said Edwards in the release.

Still, the partnership between YNHH and its service employees union has not always been peaceful. 

In 2003, two thousand clerical, technical, service and maintenance workers at the hospital went on strike after the hospital allegedly intimidated workers from forming unions while giving employees low salaries and weak pensions.

Though workers went on strike that year, some opted to withdraw from the hospital’s union. Thirteen YNHH food service employees filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the Service Employees International Union, alleging that officials in the organization broke the law by refusing to accept their resignations from union membership and then trying to fine the employees for for returning to work during a strike.

Since then, the union and YNHH have improved their relationship, with the recently approved 5-year contract a testament to the group’s efforts to cooperate with one another. Service Employees International Union District 1199 members voted overwhelmingly to approve the recently negotiated contract, according to the release.

The release also stated that the contract focused on the two organizations’ mutual support for “skill building, development and career growth of employees as well as promoting consistent operational best practices.”

The Service Employees International Union was founded in 1921.

Caroline Moore | .