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1,000 workers walked out at 6am in the largest Spokane healthcare strike in recent history

SPOKANE-  1000 technologists, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, sterile processors, dietary, housekeeping, and admitting staff at Deaconess and Valley plus registered nurses at Valley, all members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, walked out at 6am this morning to stand up for better staffing and better patient care at the local hospitals.

“When I go on my break I hand my patients over to a coworker.  That means she has 13 patients.  Most nurses in this setting have 4, maybe 5 patients,” said Tami O’Marro, a nurse in Family Care at Valley Hospital.  “We’re out here today because it’s time for management to stop the staffing cuts.”

Community leaders, labor leaders, and elected officials joined the staff as they began a 24-hour unfair labor practice strike to stop staffing cuts at both hospitals.  The nurses and healthcare workers have been raising the need to improve staffing for years.  Now that they’re in contract bargaining, they’ve been raising the issue at the table, calling for improvements in staffing, more reasonable sick leave policies, and an end to sending staff home early while patients still need care.

“I’m proud to stand with our community’s front-line caregivers,” said City Council President Ben Stuckart.  “They’re standing up for all of us, current and potential patients.  When we go to the hospital, we all need the peace of mind of knowing there are enough staff to give us good care.”

Nurses and healthcare workers will maintain picket lines around the clock until 5:59am Thursday.  This afternoon at 4pm, community supporters will rally with the picketers at Valley Hospital.  The healthcare workers vow to keep up their fight for quality patient care.

“It shouldn’t take a strike for our hospitals to get the message that we need to staff to meet our patients’ needs,” said Mary Robinson, Central Service Tech at Deaconess.  “But we’ll do what it takes to keep our patients safe.”

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