Seattle hospital hires tactical security guards ahead of strike

Swedish Medical Center has hired tactical security guards with body cameras to prepare for a three-day strike at its sites in the Seattle area, according to an email to Swedish employees obtained by Becker's Hospital Review.

The email says guards will be stationed to protect the community and workers who choose not to walk off the job. Parking and entry points have also been designated for those workers.

"We have heard from many caregivers who would prefer to come to work during the strike period to care for patients, but who are afraid if they do so they will be subjected to harassment, retaliation or abuse from SEIU supporters," Swedish stated. "It is important that all caregivers know they have an absolute right to come to work during the strike period, and that right is protected by the National Labor Relations Act."  

The strike of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW members is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. Jan. 28. It could include about 8,000 SEIU-represented Swedish workers, depending on how many join the picket lines.

A union spokesperson told Becker's the workers are "outraged that they have been asking for greater safety in the hospital, including 24-hour security guards in all emergency departments, which management has rejected, but now the hospital has hired tactical guards to instill fear in workers during the strike."

"Caregivers will not be intimidated and will continue fighting for safe patient care and safe staffing levels at Swedish-Providence," the spokesperson added.

To prepare for the walkout, Swedish also has contracted with agencies to replace striking workers with temporary ones. The medical center said it is not telling how many temporary workers it is hiring in an effort to protect them. Contract provisions require a five-day commitment to temporary replacement caregivers. Swedish said striking workers will be called back to their jobs, in accordance with the contract provisions, as work is available.

SEIU and hospital management have been in negotiations since April. In addition to increased safety, staffing has been another apparent sticking point in negotiations.

No more negotiating sessions are scheduled before the strike.



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