Kern Medical strike averted with tentative deal

Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 521 have reached a tentative agreement with Bakersfield, Calif.-based Kern Medical, ending a looming strike threat.

The union represents 53,000 public-sector and nonprofit, private-sector workers in California's Bay Area, the Central Coast and the Central Valley, according to a July 7 news release. SEIU Local 521-represented Kern Medical healthcare workers include emergency room techs, nurses, medical assistants, sanitation and nutrition workers, patient transporters, medical therapists, and social workers, among others.

Union members announced July 7 that they would begin a three-day strike July 26. The strike was postponed until August and is now averted due to the tentative agreement reached over the weekend of July 23, according to a July 25 union news release shared with Becker's.

SEIU Local 521 said the new agreement, which expires in June 2025, addresses staffing issues through recruitment and retention investments and includes significant wage increases for union members. Highlights cited by the union include automatic raises, one-time bonuses for full-time and part-time employees, and additional salary steps for registered nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, among others.

"Healthcare workers would come here, gain valuable experience, then move on to neighboring hospitals," Eva Dominguez, an MRI technologist and a member of the SEIU 521 negotiations team, said in the release. "With this new agreement, we believe we have a better chance of holding onto experienced healthcare workers who live and raise their families here in Kern County."

In response to the agreement, Danielle Kernkamp, a spokesperson for Kern Medical, told Becker's: "We have no comment at this time."

Hospital workers and the Kern County Hospital Authority governing board must still approve the tentative deal before it is final. The union said its members will vote on contract ratification beginning July 26 and concluding on July 28.

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