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Hundreds of Johns Hopkins Hospital workers protest along Orleans Street in April. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Hopkins Hospital, union reach tentative labor pact

After months of negotiations, a three-day strike, a high-profile rally and intervention by the governor, a “tentative” contract agreement has been reached between Johns Hopkins Hospital and the union representing about 2,000 of its workers.

The agreement — which still needs to be approved by the rank-and-file members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East — was reached at about 2 a.m. Tuesday morning, union representatives said.

The union members — housekeepers, maintenance workers and other types of service employees — will vote Thursday and Friday whether to ratify the contract.

Some of the lower-paid employees will receive raises as high as 38 percent over the life of the contract, which would last until 2018. The proposed contract includes annual across-the-board raises of 2 percent, with a 2.75 percent hike in 2017.

But the real crux of the dispute was the minimum wage. On Tuesday, Hopkins made significant compromises in that area, which union spokesman Jim McNeill said was the turning point.

The agreement would immediately establish a $15-per-hour minimum wage for workers with 20 years of service. The minimum wage for employees who have worked at Hopkins for at least 15 years would reach $14.50 next year.

Current workers will start receiving a $13-per-hour minimum wage by 2018. The union originally asked for $14 an hour.

“To put that in perspective, you have workers starting at $10.71 right now, so that’s a pretty dramatic jump,” McNeill said.

The workers held a three-day strike in April to protest Hopkins’ then-best offer, which included a $12.25 per hour minimum by the end of the contract.

Talks continued through the spring with little progress, despite incremental compromises from the hospital. Union members then voted to authorize a second walk-out at the end of June — this time, they planned to strike for four days.

But at the behest of Gov. Martin O’Malley, who stepped in to ask the union to call off the strike, which it did. The two parties honored a one-week cooling off period before returning to the bargaining table.