Members of Local 7798 achieve major goal with workplace violence policy

Workers at Copper Country Mental Health Services in Houghton, Mich., obtained wage increases and pension improvements in their contract ratified earlier this year, but the benefit Local 7798 members were most proud of bargaining was language regarding workplace violence.

The contract committed the employer to appoint a committee, including two members of the local, to draft a workplace violence policy. Work quickly began on the policy, and just last week, the committee drafted and released its first clinical guideline focusing on responding to consumer aggression toward staff.

“We are so excited to have this go into effect,” said Unit Chair Rachelle Rodriguez of Local 7798. “This was a direct result of our last negotiating session.”

The guideline includes the definition of aggression and an outline of procedures, all of which will be reviewed yearly. And though this is just a first step in reducing the incident rates and harm of workplace violence in their workplace, it still is a big one for the local, and it wouldn’t have been possible without a collective bargaining agreement.

This is also why legislation, like the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309), recently passed by the U.S. House, is so important for helping provide further enforcement of contract language regarding issues like workplace violence, the third-leading cause of death on the job.

Incidents of violence in the industry are up 30 percent since 2012, and USW members have been pushing legislators throughout the year to pass this vital bill, which now moves on to the Senate.

“Our members mobilized all across the country and across industries to collect more than 80,000 signatures in support of this bill because they know it affects all working people,” said USW International President Tom Conway when H.9. 1309 passed two weeks ago. “We hope Mitch McConnell does what’s best for caregivers, their patients, and their families by bringing this bill to a vote in the Senate, where we believe it will see the same support as it did in the House.”

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