Media Advisory For: Friday, Jan. 31, 2020
Contact: Dave Bates, DaveBComms@gmail.com
Kenia Escobar, firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle Mayor Durkan, King County Executive Constantine and Sister of Providence to Join Swedish-Providence Nurses and Caregivers Attempting to Return to Work
In response to caregivers standing up for safe staffing and against unfair labor practices, Swedish-Providence executives have threatened to lock some workers out of their jobs for an additional two days
WHAT: Swedish-Providence nurses and caregivers attempt to return to work, but management has threatened to lock some workers out of their jobs for an additional two days.
WHEN: Friday, Jan. 31
Rally at 7 AM, caregivers attempt to return to work at 7:30 am
• Swedish First Hill: Seattle Mayor Durkan, King County Executive Constantine and Sister Helen Brennan of the Sisters of Providence will urge management to allow caregivers to return to work and care for their patients.
747 Broadway, Seattle
• Swedish Edmonds: Mayor Mike Nelson will be joining caregivers trying to return to work.
21601 76th Ave W, Edmonds
• Elected officials will be joining caregivers at other locations as well. Workers will attempt to return to their jobs at Swedish Cherry Hill, Ballard, Issaquah and ambulatory care centers in Redmond and Mill Creek.
Seattle, WA- On Friday, January 31, Seattle Mayor Durkan, King County Executive Constantine and Sister Helen Brennan of the Sisters of Providence will join caregivers as they attempt to return to work at Swedish First Hill. Caregivers are wrapping up their highly successful three-day unfair labor practice strike, in which nearly all 8,000 Swedish-Providence workers participated. For over nine months, healthcare workers have been taking a stand for safe patient care, better staffing levels, and job improvements which will recruit and retain qualified staff. There was an outpouring of support during the strike from patients, elected officials, community members and presidential candidates Warren, Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar. Now, caregivers look forward to returning to work for their regularly scheduled shifts, but management has threatened to lock them out for an additional two days.
A partial lockout would be a violation of federal labor law, and management has committed other unfair labor practices more than a dozen times, including intimidating, surveilling and terminating multiple caregivers for speaking out. Recently the National Labor Relations Board started legal proceedings against Swedish-Providence regarding the firing of three workers for union activity, and has opened investigations into many more violations. While caregivers have been struggling, top executives at the “non-profit” have raked in millions of dollars in compensation. Providence had $24 billion in revenue and $11 billion in cash reserves in 2018, and $970 million in profits in just the first three quarters of 2019.
“Our workloads are often overwhelming, and that can put patients at risk,” said Diana Garcia, who works at Swedish Edmonds. “Environmental service technicians are the frontline of infection control, we are responsible for cleaning and disinfecting every space of the hospital. This is even more important during flu season and with the Coronavirus threat. We’ve proposed safe workloads, but management has rejected these solutions and now they’re threatening to lock us out of our jobs. A lockout would create financial hardship for my coworkers, who are already struggling. It really feels like Swedish-Providence is punishing workers because we’re standing up publicly for safe staffing and patient care for our community.”
On Wednesday, King County Executive Dow Constantine sent an open letter to Swedish-Providence CEO Guy Hudson, urging him to allow all caregivers to return to work when the strike ends on Friday. The letter reads in part: “As King County Executive, I have a responsibility for the health and safety of the public and King County’s own employees, who rely on Swedish for their health care. The public interest would be best served by Providence Swedish returning all bargaining unit employees represented by SEIU Healthcare 1199NW to their prior positions immediately upon the end of their 3-day strike. This will ensure the patient care is provided by experienced, competent staff.”
“Returning the experienced, skilled caregivers of Swedish to caring for the members of our community is an immediate priority for all of us,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “While this strike may only have lasted three days, ultimately an expedited agreement is better for everyone in our city. We need this dispute resolved so that our dedicated staff can get back to work, serving our community, as quickly as possible.”
“There’s already poor morale throughout Swedish-Providence because of low staffing levels, but now this threat of a lockout is really demoralizing,” said Whittney Powers, a registered nurse in the Swedish Edmonds emergency room. “We have been begging for greater security in Swedish-Providence emergency rooms for months because we’re caring for patients who have mental illnesses, substance addictions and can be violent. Management rejected our proposals for safe staffing levels and greater security, but then within a week they hired 200 ‘tactical security guards’ to intimidate us during the strike. Management has also said they’re going to lock us out of our jobs for two days, which feels like they’re trying to punish us financially for our patient advocacy. This is a slap in the face, and we feel betrayed and devalued. We’re eager to get back to work caring for our patients, and to get back to negotiating a fair contract which ensures safe patient care. There’s a lot of healing and rebuilding of trust needed at Swedish-Providence after how they’ve treated the frontline staff.”
Management’s other unfair labor practices include: unilaterally changing working conditions without negotiating; refusing to provide even basic information to facilitate negotiations; and refusing to bargain recently to avert the unfair labor practice strike. Management has announced to the press that “all bets are off the table” and that “negotiations would have to begin over again.” This is also a violation of labor law because it is an indication of bad faith bargaining, and SEIU Healthcare 1199NW members announced they will be filing another unfair labor practice charge.
Swedish-Providence nurses, nursing assistants, techs, lab workers, dietary workers, environmental service technicians, clerks, social workers and others have been proposing urgent solutions to improve patient care and jobs. Their contract proposals include: safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios; manageable workloads for environmental service technicians so they can properly clean and disinfect patients’ rooms; safeguards against racial discrimination so everyone is treated with respect on the job; and fair wages that recruit and retain qualified staff.
According to management’s own data, 1,000 healthcare workers a year leave Swedish-Providence and there are currently about 900 vacant staff positions. 600 of those positions are for registered nurses, and 50 percent of vacancies have gone unfilled for 60 days or longer. Instead of fundamentally solving ongoing turnover and staff vacancies, management has been abusing the use of call, including in the operating room, recovery and special procedures, which has created fatigue and unsafe conditions. One of the reasons that Swedish-Providence has difficulty with recruitment and retention is that wages for frontline workers are not keeping up with the soaring cost of living, especially housing. Swedish-Providence pays almost 40 percent of its employees below the salary necessary to afford the average one-bedroom in the Seattle area.
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.