SEIU 1021

SF Registered Nurses win huge arbitration victory restoring bilingual pay


Earlier this year, our union filed for arbitration over management’s decision to begin withholding bilingual pay for nurses. Management stopped administering the test for bilingual pay, and refused to continue to give bilingual pay from nurses who had already been approved.

Earlier this month, we finally got word that the arbitrator had issued his decision, saying that the City blatantly violated the MOU by:

  • Failing to automatically roll the RNs who were already receiving bilingual premium pay into the new system in July 2019 and
  • Failing to have the new testing/certification system ready for months after the new contract became effective in July 2019.

This is a significant victory for our members. “This fight was about contract enforcement of our members’ benefits, telling our employers they cannot make empty promises and get away with it. More importantly, this was a social justice fight for equity for our patients and the communities. Everyone deserves healthcare in their primary or preferred language. Our members should feel proud of this win that we will go whatever length necessary to do what is right and just for all,” said Aaron Cramer, SFGH-RN Chief Shop Steward.

It is crucial that San Francisco’s residents be able to receive in-language care and attention when they seek medical services in our City’s healthcare facilities. Nurses rely on being able to communicate clearly with patients to learn about their symptoms, whether they’re experiencing pain, their medical history, and more in order to make informed decisions about care. San Francisco should be encouraging, not punishing, nurses who hone or maintain multi-lingual proficiency. 

The arbitrator ordered that City management make nurses whole who:

  • Had been receiving bilingual pay under the previous contract and then suddenly stopped receiving it under the 2019-22 contract; and
  • Were “assigned” to perform bilingual services and did deliver such services on or after July 1, 2019 but were prevented from sitting for and taking the exam, or otherwise prevented by bureaucratic ineptitude from receiving their bilingual pay.

When we fight, we win!