Healthcare workers win unprecedented wage increases and overwhelmingly vote to ratify union contract at Providence Swedish
Through their sustained actions and intentional use of a racial justice lens at the bargaining table, workers united in SEIU Healthcare 1199NW won historic wage increases of 21.5% or $6.50/hour, whichever is higher, in addition to market adjustments, bonuses, and equitable incentives.
SEATTLE — Nurses and healthcare workers at Providence Swedish, united in SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, overwhelmingly voted to ratify a union contract Tuesday after the union bargaining team reached a tentative agreement earlier this month.
The ratification vote is the culmination of a contract reopener negotiation in which the union and hospital bargaining teams returned to the table one year ahead of schedule with a joint commitment to adopt a collaborative approach that centered racial justice, equity and inclusion. This contract reopener resulted in the largest economic package the workers have ever won at Providence Swedish, and one that uplifts all workers and raises standards in healthcare.
“With staffing levels being as dangerous as they are, both our union and Providence Swedish knew that equitable wage increases and incentives couldn’t wait until the next contract,” said Jane Hopkins, RN, president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. “Everyone came to the table ready to collaborate in good faith, to apply racial justice principles, and to elevate our union leadership’s vision of fostering anti-racist workplaces. We stayed true to our values, and we secured a historic economic package that will both keep healthcare workers at Providence Swedish, and recruit new workers.”
The more than 7,000 workers harnessed their union strength, took action in their workplaces, and capitalized on the momentum generated by their strike in 2020 to win wage increases of at least 21.5% or $6.50, whichever is higher, over two years — some of the largest raises in healthcare in the area. In addition, this year’s historic contract builds upon the Organizational Equity and Inclusion language the union workers won in 2020, and paves the way for an innovative bargaining process rooted in respect, equity, and collaboration.
“We know that we cannot achieve economic justice without racial justice, and that is why the union team felt it was important to be the drivers of change at Providence Swedish,” said Yolanda King-Lowe, secretary-treasurer of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. “We began by examining the role we play in dismantling the structural racism that is embedded in our society, especially in healthcare, and we won equitable raises for all workers, especially those who had been left behind.”
The union bargaining team was guided by a shared vision of creating a pathway at Providence Swedish where all workers belong, and for the first time, both bargaining teams applied a racial justice lens to each bargaining proposal.
“Applying a racial justice lens is an exciting new approach to bargaining that we were all excited to use. We aimed to uplift all job classes, not just a few,” said Carol Lightle, charge nurse at Swedish Issaquah, member of the union bargaining team, and rank-and-file vice president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. “We can’t change the past, but with our actions we can make a positive difference in the lives of future generations of healthcare workers. It means the world to me that my coworkers are going to be able to better support their families and continue serving our communities. When working people win, our community benefits.”
This newly ratified contract reflects an unprecedented investment in caregivers through historic wage increases, market adjustments, appreciation and longevity bonuses, and other provisions to help recruit and retain quality caregivers and ensure safe patient care in our community. Currently, there are more than 1,000 vacancies across the Providence Swedish system.
In addition to significant across-the-board wage increases that will help alleviate the strain caused by the rising cost of living in the Seattle area, especially for workers in the lowest-paid job classes, the workers won:
- Market adjustments for nurses and other job classes, including nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, and emergency department technicians
- A process to ensure an accurate review of year-for-year credit for past experience, including relevant international experience, and adjustments to the wage scales
- Increases to premium pay, differentials and incentive pay for preceptors, lead roles, night shift, stand by, and extra shifts
- Appreciation and longevity bonuses
“It’s such a relief that after experiencing the toughest years of our careers and watching our coworkers leave in droves, we won meaningful investments in staffing in all member departments, leaving no one behind” said David Antwi, nursing assistant in the Behavioral Health Unit at Swedish Ballard and member of the union bargaining team. “This new economic package will help us pay the bills, but will also allow Providence Swedish to recruit and retain new coworkers and alleviate the staffing crisis we’re facing. An investment in our workforce is an investment in patient care.”
Healthcare workers are hopeful that the standard-setting wage increases under this newly ratified contract and their use of a racial justice lens at the bargaining table will serve as the blueprint for recruitment and retention in healthcare during future collective agreement negotiations in the Seattle area. The SEIU Healthcare 1199NW bargaining team is currently negotiating an economic reopener with UW Medicine, which includes more than 5,000 healthcare workers at Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center – Northwest, and UW Neighborhood Clinics.
About SEIU Healthcare 1199NW
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW is a union of nurses and healthcare workers with over 32,000 caregivers throughout hospitals, clinics, mental health, skilled home health and hospice programs in Washington state and Montana. SEIU Healthcare 1199NW’s mission is to advocate for quality care and good jobs for all.