FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact on behalf of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW:
Libby Smelker, Libby@617mediagroup.com, (617) 485-4801
Focused on providing quality patient care, nurses at Tacoma’s Wellfound Behavioral Health Hospital form first-ever union
Healthcare workers at the psychiatric facility in Pierce County united with the state’s largest healthcare union for a stronger voice in delivering safe and effective care
TACOMA, WA — United in their determination to ensure better patient care and safer working conditions, nurses, mental health technicians, unit secretaries, and housekeeping staff at Tacoma’s Wellfound Behavioral Health, a joint venture of CHI Franciscan and MultiCare Health System, voted Thursday 72 to 4 to join SEIU Healthcare 1199NW.
With an eye toward having a larger voice on issues such as staffing and security, the caregivers expressed their excitement at the chance to foster a safe and healthy environment in which patients can recover and heal. One of the workers’ top priorities will be improving safe staffing standards that will help reduce burnout and ensure safe, manageable workplaces.
“We decided to form a union at Wellfound because of our commitment to delivering the best care possible for our patients. We wanted a bigger platform for speaking up about important issues like safety and what we can do to reduce turnover,” said RN Laurel Titland. “I’ve been a union member before and experienced the union difference firsthand. Yes, unionized workers get higher pay and better benefits. Most importantly, we now have a stronger voice in creating our future.”
“A vote for the union was a vote for the patients I care for,” said Elishipha Kimani, a Mental Health Technician for seven years. “Together with my coworkers, I plan to make Wellfound an even better place to receive and provide care, because I plan on sticking around. Communities in western Washington need increased access to behavioral health services, and we’re part of making that happen.”
The next step for union members will be to sit down with Wellfound management to negotiate a first contract. Like in other unionized workplaces, nurses and MHTs are looking to improve patient care through staffing committees and a training fund for staff development and education. Social workers and other professionals at Wellfound have also filed with the National Labor Relations Board for an election and anticipate voting to join their colleagues in becoming SEIU Healthcare 1199NW members in January.
The caregivers at Wellfound will also add their voice to the statewide legislative campaign “WA Safe+Healthy” to pass safe staffing standards that protect healthcare workers from dangerously high patient loads.
“We’re eager to work with management to address the challenges we’ve seen at Wellfound. A union gives us that voice,” said Kimani. “Having a union means we get to advocate for better workplace conditions for workers and better care for patients. Now that we’re unionized, we’re hopeful for a brighter future at Wellfound.”
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.