For Immediate Release:
Thursday, April 9, 2020
Dave Bates, firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy Clark, email@example.com
280 Nurses and Caregivers Win First-Ever Union Contract at Providence Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County
The agreement will substantially improve the quality of care for vulnerable patients and transform jobs into sustainable careers, thereby strengthening resilience in the face
of coronavirus crisis
Snohomish County, WA — The 280 nurses and caregivers at Providence Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County announced they have won a first-ever union contract, which will substantially enhance the quality of care for vulnerable patients and transform jobs into sustainable careers. The three-year agreement includes expanded training and continuing education; a process for improving staffing; maintenance of sick time, retirement, affordable healthcare and other benefits; a fair and transparent wage scale that rewards years of experience; and raises which will recruit and retain qualified staff.
“I started in healthcare 18 years ago and worked my way up to become a registered nurse because I love caring for people, especially those who don’t have any family,” said Neneh Jallow-Avants, a registered nurse at Providence Hospice and Home Care who lives in Lynnwood. “Sometimes I am the only person my patients see the entire week, and their faces light up with gratitude and happiness when I arrive. Because I care about my patients’ physical and emotional health so deeply, it really hurt me when I saw colleagues around me leaving for other employers. Now that we have a union contract with major improvement like a fair pay scale, we can keep our quality, seasoned clinicians and ensure the best care for our patients. This work is all about the original founding values of the Sisters of Providence, giving patients comfort and hope. Because we have a union voice, we’re able to stay true to that vision.”
These highly skilled health professionals care for some of the most vulnerable residents of Snohomish County, those at the end of life and recovering from surgery or illness, both in people’s homes and at the Providence Everett Hospice Care Center. Staff include registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, chaplains, home health aides, social workers, grief counselors, physical therapists, clerks and others. Caregivers voted overwhelmingly to ratify the contract during two days of online balloting on April 4 and 5, and the votes were tallied on April 6.
Workers voted by a landslide to join the union, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, four years ago on April 6, 2016, and since then had participated in scores of actions including a three-day strike in December 2017. The key patient care and jobs improvements in the contract include:
- The establishment of staffing and labor-management committees so frontline workers have an ongoing voice in decision-making;
- Significantly expanded funding and 24 paid hours per year for training and education;
- Maintenance of paid sick time, retirement benefits, and affordable health insurance;
- A fair and transparent wage scale that rewards caregivers for years of service, including credit for past experience;
- Premium pay to recognize a wide range of advanced certifications, guaranteed in the contract;
- Shift differential pay for evenings, nights, weekends and holidays, guaranteed in the contract;
- Increased pay when workers are “on call” or get called back into work;
- Restrictions on mandatory after-hours and weekend work, to avoid staff burn out;
- Total raises of up to 17 percent over the life of the contract, depending on staff experience.
8,000 nurses and caregivers who are members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW at Swedish Medical Center, which is also owned by Providence St. Joseph Health, settled their contract as well this week. That contract covers seven Swedish-Providence locations, including the Swedish Edmonds Campus and Swedish Mill Creek aCampus, an ambulatory care center. Among many improvements, the agreement includes staffing increases, provisions to safeguard against racial discrimination, better medical benefits and substantial raises.
In addition to the new contracts, Providence has agreed to a wide range of protections and resources for staff who are battling COVID-19, such as expanded access to personal protective equipment; moving non-essential visits to TeleHealth; greater communication about planning and safety protocols; low-cost child and elder care for workers; and paid leave for employees who have been exposed to the virus.
“Being on the front lines in a pandemic really brings home how important it is for all healthcare workers to have good union jobs,” said Susan Kometani Dittman, a registered nurse who lives in the Snohomish area and has worked at Providence Hospice and Home Care since 2007. “With our union, we’re able to advocate for our patients and each other while knowing we’re secure in our jobs. Just recently we successfully addressed concerns with management about needing more personal protective equipment, infection control training, team communication and options to do TeleHealth. Also, because we now have a union contract with expanded education funding, a transparent pay scale, and other standards, we’ll be able to recruit and retain qualified staff during these difficult times.”
Healthcare workers throughout Providence Hospice and Home Care and Swedish-Providence say that, after a multi-year struggle, they have finally won the respect and recognition they deserve for being on the front lines. The new contract agreements will increase workforce strength and resilience in the face of the still-growing coronavirus crisis. When nurses and caregivers have safe staffing, a real voice in decision making, affordable healthcare, paid sick time and economic security, they are better able to protect their patients, families, communities and themselves.
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW is a union of over 30,000 nurses and healthcare workers throughout hospitals, clinics, mental health facilities, skilled home health and hospice programs in Washington State and Montana. Their mission is to advocate for quality healthcare and good jobs for all.