On Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, we flew to Ketchikan, Alaska to show support for our fellow PeaceHealth nurses who were negotiating their new union contract. It was a great opportunity to connect with nurses from another PeaceHealth hospital that work and live under very different conditions than ourselves.
We were greeted by a couple nurses from Anchorage who were members of the Alaska Nurses Association (AaNA). They had come down to show support and solidarity to the nurses in Ketchikan as well. We met up with a group of people at the busiest intersection in Ketchikan to hold an informational rally—mind you that there is only one main intersection in Ketchikan. There were people from various organizations and unions, including the local nurses from Ketchikan, local teachers, as well as people from the local maritime union, all out on the street in the cold to show support for the nurses.
The nurses in Ketchikan need our support to receive a fair contract. One of the biggest issues that they are facing is their rate of pay, which is currently the lowest of all the PeaceHealth facilities, and is well below the current cost of living in Ketchikan. They also have difficulty with nurse retention, leading to higher utilization of agency and travel nurses, which costs the organization millions of dollars.
Having this opportunity to connect with the people in Ketchikan really was wonderful to see how a small town can come together to support each other. As nurses, we all face similar struggles and need to support each other no matter where we are at geographically. In the past, we have received support from PeaceHealth in Bellingham during negotiations, which helped to reach a contract agreement quickly. All the support that they have received in Ketchikan has appeared to have paid off as they were able to reach a tentative contract agreement in late February.