Locked Out PeaceHealth Caregivers Return to Patients
Following Two-Day Lockout, Caregivers Are Back at the Bedside
BELLINGHAM – After PeaceHealth St. Joseph Hospital and Labs caregivers went on an unfair labor practice strike for 25 hours to stand up for a better investment in frontline care, PeaceHealth chose to leave out-of-town replacement workers at the bedside rather than allow caregivers back in. Following a two-day lockout the caregivers, members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, returned to their patients on Saturday morning, walking in with community supporters.
The 900 caregivers, which include nursing assistants, lab techs, dietary, housekeeping, unit secretaries, sterile processing, and more, have been bargaining for a first contract for eighteen months. Caregivers are calling for PeaceHealth to invest more of its $50 million profit in frontline care and caregivers.
“We stood up for our community and our caregivers by taking action,” said Amy Denniston, a Respiratory Therapist in the hospital. “We will continue to take action until we win the standards that our patients deserve.”
The Bellingham community rallied behind the locked out workers, donating more than $2,500 to the newly created PeaceHealth Caregivers’ Hardship Fund. Major donors include area teachers, firefighters, and nurses.
“Firefighters stand up for what’s right, and that’s why we’re standing with you,” said Bellingham Whatcom Firefighters Association President Robert Glorioso.
Caregivers report that low wages and unaffordable healthcare benefits are leaving Bellingham working families behind while PeaceHealth and its CEO prosper. Some caregivers have been taken to collections or are having paychecks garnished by PeaceHealth for the high cost of healthcare at the very hospital where they work.
“I’m in collections and they’re garnishing my wages, and I work here,” said Carley Brouwer, a CNA at the hospital. “I don’t think that’s fair for anyone to go through, let alone a caregiver that works at their hospital day in, day out, providing care.”
Caregivers vow to keep up the fight and have not ruled out taking further action in the future.