Press release

Hundreds of nurses, supporters picket Tacoma General Hospital

Nurses, WSNA call on MultiCare Tacoma General to put Patients before Profits

TACOMA -- (June 27, 2016) Hundreds of nurses, labor leaders and community members gathered today for an informational picket and rally for the 730+ registered nurses at MultiCare Tacoma General. The nurses are fighting for a fair contract that will support safe patient care. Chanting “Patients before Profits!” the picketers lined Martin Luther King Jr. Way in front of the Hospital.

“This really is about being able to give my patients the care I want to give them,” said Renata Bowlden, RN, who has worked in Labor and Delivery at Tacoma General for 23 years. “These days the nurses are stretched so thin it’s hard to give my patients the care they deserve, and it’s hard to take the lunch breaks and rest breaks you really need when you’re working 12 hours. I always put my patients first – I want Tacoma General to do the same.”

The WSNA-represented nurses at Tacoma General have been fighting to ensure safe patient care. They are fighting at the bargaining table to make sure Registered Nurses have what they need to give the safe, high quality care their community of patients should be able to expect, and they are fighting in the courts to ensure nurses get their much-needed and legally-mandated rest breaks.

At present, MultiCare Tacoma General is defying an arbitrator’s order to stop using so-called “break buddies,” which temporarily doubles a nurse’s patient load while their colleague goes on break, and MultiCare has taken the unusual step of petitioning in federal court to have the decision overturned.

“What I see at Tacoma General are nurses who are really struggling to take good care of all their patients – they simply are stretched too thin,” said Christine Himmelsbach, MN, RN, Assistant Executive Director of Labor at WSNA. “MultiCare should put patients before profits and hire more nurses so that Tacoma General is staffed safely to meet their patients’ needs and allow nurses to take their breaks.”

Contract negotiations, which have been going on since December 2015, have been marked by numerous Unfair Labor Practice complaints by WSNA. The 10th and 11th bargaining sessions are scheduled for June 28 and July 7.

Key issues at the negotiating table include:

  • Safe Staffing: Without adequate staffing, nurses can’t give their patients the attention they require. With one of the healthiest profit margins in the business – averaging 12.6% between 2009 and 2013 – Tacoma General can afford to give its patients the safe nurse staffing they deserve.
  • Real rest breaks: Tacoma General is defying an arbitrators order by insisting on continuing to use “break buddies” to cover rest breaks. Now they want to get “break buddies” into the nurses’ contract! The truth is, expecting a nurse to take a double patient load – even for only 15 minutes – is not safe.
  • Wages and benefits that recruit and retain good nurses: Tacoma General will not be able to meet their staffing needs without recruiting and retaining good nurses. That takes competitive wages and benefits.

About WSNAWSNA is the leading voice and advocate for nurses in Washington state, providing union representation and trainings that allow nurses to reach their full professional potential and focus on caring for patients. WSNA represents more than 17,000 registered nurses who provide care in hospitals, clinics, schools and community and public health settings across the state. For more than 100 years, WSNA has championed issues that support nurses, advance professional standards and improve the health of individuals and families in Washington.

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