Strike threat looms at Providence sites in Washington state


Tens of thousands of nurses and other healthcare workers are moving closer to a strike at Providence facilities across Washington state, according to The Spokesman-Review.

Three unions — SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, UFCW 21 and the Washington State Nurses Association — have been negotiating on behalf of workers at facilities owned by Renton, Wash.-based Providence Health and Services.

But more than 8,000 nurses, nursing assistants, techs, lab workers, dietary workers, environmental service workers, clerks, social workers and other healthcare employees of Seattle-based Swedish Medical Center failed to reach an agreement with Swedish officials Dec. 30, meaning a statewide strike is closer to becoming a reality, according to The Spokesman-Review.

Workers have authorized strikes at Providence locations statewide, including Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital in Spokane, and seven Swedish Medical Center sites in the Seattle area.

If the unions don't reach labor deals, there could be a statewide strike involving about 13,000 workers at 13 Providence locations in Washington.

Staffing has been a key sticking point at Swedish hospitals and ambulatory care centers.

"Nurses and caregivers are raising alarms that patient care problems and severe understaffing have worsened since Swedish was taken over by the corporate giant Providence," union officials said in a news release.

Swedish officials also discussed staffing.

"A significant shortage of qualified healthcare professionals has impacted providers across the country, and Swedish is no exception, with more than 900 open union-represented positions," Swedish officials said in a news release cited by The Spokesman-Review. "To address this shortage, Swedish is proposing to partner directly with SEIU to convene an intensive series of discussions in January 2020 focused on recruiting and retaining qualified candidates and building the current workforce through professional development pathways."

For nurses at Sacred Heart, represented by the Washington State Nurses Association, extended time off for illness for new hires is a key sticking point.

UFCW 21 members at Providence locations are concerned about staffing and safety, Tom Geiger, special projects director for the union, told the newspaper.

Updates on bargaining at Swedish sites can be found here.


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