Nurses - Photo courtesy of Rusty Watson on Unsplash

Days before they were set to walk a picket line, thousands of nurses in the Los Angeles County health care system reached a tentative labor contract that will avert a strike, their union announced Thursday.

Nearly 7,000 nurses represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 721 were set to conduct a three-day strike beginning next Wednesday, impacting county Department of Health Services, Department of Public Health and Department of Mental Health facilities.

Exact details of the tentative labor pact were not immediate released, but union officials said it “includes stronger job protections … and locks in competitive compensation.”

“Our L.A. County nurses have made incredible sacrifices on the front line, so we drove a hard bargain,” David Green, SEIU 721 president, said in a statement. “This is why it was so important to us to negotiate not just for better compensation but for a real plan that addresses nurse retention.

“COVID impacted our ranks, which were already being hit hard by years of underfunding for public health care. Now, we’ve got a commitment to address this problem and we*ve got the power of our union to make sure the plan materializes.”

Union members still need to ratify the proposed agreement, with voting expected to begin in early June.

Coral Itzcalli, director of communications for the county Department of Health Services, said the county is “pleased” that a proposed deal was reached.

“Our nurses went above and beyond for our patients and community during the pandemic, and good faith bargaining between the L.A. County CEO’s office and the union made it possible to reach a fair and amicable agreement that safeguards patient care, values health care workers and ultimately upholds our heartfelt appreciation for our health care workers who provide best-in-class patient care,” Itzcalli said.

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