For Immediate Release:
Thursday, Jan. 9, 2019
Dave Bates, DaveBComms@gmail.com
Nurses at St. Elizabeth Hospital Win Tentative Agreement That Will Significantly Improve the Quality of Patient Care & Jobs
Nurses and healthcare workers at Highline Medical Center, also owned by CHI Franciscan,
and Swedish Medical Center, owned by Providence, are still fighting for
fair contracts that protect patient safety
Enumclaw, WA – The 124 nurses at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw announced today that they have reached a tentative agreement for a new contract that will significantly improve the quality of patient care and jobs. The agreement includes safer staffing so patients receive the care they deserve, substantial raises to recruit and retain qualified staff, and none of the dangerous cuts that executives had originally proposed. The nurse members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW will be voting on whether to ratify the contract today and tomorrow, and the final vote count will be tallied by January 10 at 3:30 p.m.
“This agreement means better and safer patient care at St. Elizabeth,” said Sherry Tomt, who has worked at St. Elizabeth for four years. “I’ve been a registered nurse and lived in Enumclaw for about 26 years, and raised three kids here. This is my community and that’s why I fought so hard alongside my colleagues to win this contract. In our agreement, management has committed to follow the written staffing guidelines in every unit, which we can enforce with a neutral arbitrator. We also won raises that will help recruit new nurses and retain the staff we have. The vast majority of St. Elizabeth nurses came out for our big rally, and we were joined by lots of neighbors. This victory shows that sticking together in our union really works and results in concrete improvements that will help us better care for our community.”
The tentative agreement guarantees a wide range of improvements, including: a commitment by management to adhere to the written staffing guidelines in every hospital unit, enforceable through a neutral arbitrator; a 6.5 percent pay increase upon ratification, a 3.25 percent retroactive raise back to April 1 when the last contract expired, and another 3.5 percent raise on April 1, 2021; increased premium pay for charge nurses and hospital resource nurses; increased pay for extra shifts and standby; credit for new registered nurses who have previous experience as licensed practical nurses; protection of the “low census fund” which allows nurses to take on other duties when patient admissions drop; protection of 15 percent premium pay for “per diem” nurses who work on an intermittent basis; and joint training on equity and inclusion for the labor-management committee, to safeguard against discrimination and ensure fair treatment on the job for all employees. The retroactive raises were a significant achievement which employers commonly reject, but St. Elizabeth nurses prevailed on this point, insisting it would help with recruitment and retention. The new contract would expire on March 31, 2022.
“With this victory we’ve shown that nurses at St. Elizabeth stand together as a team and with our community – it’s truly all for one and one for all,” said Kelly Patton, a mother of seven who has 30 years of nursing experience and has worked at the hospital for the past 10 years. “Because we’re more of a rural hospital, you have to raise pay up to area standards, or you just can’t attract new nurses. We improved pay for every type of nurse, and that will help a lot with staffing. We especially wanted to protect the premium pay for our ‘per diem’ nurses who work on an intermittent, day-by-day basis, because they help us fill in staffing gaps. We’ll also be able to hold management accountable to the written staffing guidelines throughout the hospital. The bottom line comes down to this: we’re all nurses committed to our community, and we’re willing to raise hell to ensure safe care for our patients.”
St. Elizabeth is very financially healthy with a strong profit margin, and CHI Franciscan had $1.4 billion in revenue in 2018. Recently, CHI came under the corporate control of CommonSpirit Health, the largest “non-profit” health system in the country by revenue, with over 700 facilities throughout 21 states. At Highline Medical Center in Burien, also owned by CHI Franciscan, 550 nurses and healthcare workers are still in negotiations and have been trying to achieve a fair contract since June. Their priorities are safe staffing, fair wages that will recruit and retain qualified staff, maintaining their retirement and protecting affordable health benefits. The next Highline negotiation session is scheduled for January 17.
The 8,000 nurses and caregivers at Swedish Medical Center, owned by Providence, have been engaged in marathon negotiating sessions this week, after a planned strike notice was postponed last Friday. The members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW at Swedish are negotiating alongside thousands of workers at other Providence locations, including members of UFCW 21. Similar to CHI Franciscan, Providence caregivers are focused on ensuring their patients receive safe, quality, compassionate care.
About SEIU Healthcare 1199NW
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW is a union of 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.