Riverside, CA – A federal arbitrator has ordered the Service Employees International Union 121RN to pay $6.26 million in damages to Riverside Community Hospital (RCH), part of HCA Healthcare, a leading healthcare organization, for conducting an unlawful strike in June 2020.

The rare decision calling for a union to pay for damages for an unlawful strike was issued May 31, 2024 by a Los Angeles-based arbitrator. It follows a May 2023 decision that found the union liable for a 10-day strike that “deprived the hospital of the rights it was due” under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

CBAs govern the terms under which unions can strike. The arbitrator’s ruling on both liability and damages against SEIU 121RN was based on the fact that the union executed the strike in disregard of the terms of its CBA. According to the decision “There is no intellectually honest way to escape the conclusion that the strike scenario in this case seriously violated the CBA, deprived RCH of the bargain the Union made with RCH, and subjected RCH to a strike the Union did not have the right to execute under the CBA.”

The damages were awarded to cover the cost of replacing the workers who walked off the job during the strike – called by union leaders despite warnings from hospital leadership that it violated the terms of the CBA.

“Our contract was clear, and the union showed reckless disregard for its members and the Riverside community by calling the strike,” said Jackie Van Blaricum, the hospital’s CEO during the strike and now president of HCA Healthcare’s Far West Division.  “We applaud the arbitrator’s decision.”