WSNA in Olympia: 2021 Legislative Session Week 2

In this week’s update:

    • Week 2 Recap
    • WSNA Nurses Testify before Legisla­tive Committees
    • Upcoming Events: Advocacy Camp & Lobby Day

Week 2

This was a busy week of hearings on policy bills and WSNA was well repre­sented with several members providing testi­mony on key bills. As a reminder, all hearings and meetings with legis­la­tors are taking place over Zoom and are being aired on TVW. WSNA’s 2021 Legisla­tive Prior­i­ties are avail­able online.

WSNA Nurses Testify before Legisla­tive Committees

WSNA members provided testi­mony to legisla­tive commit­tees on a number of bills this week:

Health Emergency Labor Standards Act: Worker Protections

On Monday, Shelly Pollock Mead, RN, testi­fied before the Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee in support of the Health Emergency Labor Standards Act. This is large bill that contains a variety of worker protec­tion measures that would go into effect during a health emergency, such as a presump­tion of on-the-job exposure, so every worker is eligible for workers’ compen­sa­tion leave/​pay, protec­tion against retal­i­a­tion for speaking up about an unsafe working condi­tions, easier access to Paid Family and Medical Leave after exposure, and additional emergency sick leave to be used if you need to quaran­tine or care for a sick family member.

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Increasing Worker Protections

On Wednesday, Erin Allison, RN, a member of WSNA’s Legisla­tive & Health Policy Council, testi­fied in support of House Bill 1097, legis­la­tion that would provide L&I with additional tools to help protect workers – including against retal­i­a­tion. Erin told the Committee about how an emergency room physi­cian in her hospital faced severe retal­i­a­tion for speaking up about safety concerns during the early weeks of the pandemic. Erin said, The fact that one of our top ER docs was fired in the midst of a pandemic at the very time when our number of COVID cases were dramat­i­cally increasing left the rest of us feeling threat­ened. Feeling like if we spoke up, we would be risking our jobs.”

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Victims of Sexual Assault

Stephanie Wahlgren, RN, SANE, and member of WSNA’s Legisla­tive & Health Policy Council, testi­fied before the House Public Safety Committee in support of House Bill 1109. She noted that this bill works to provide a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach to inves­ti­ga­tions where sexual assault occurred. As part of her testi­mony, Stephanie recom­mended that medical profes­sionals caring for the survivor of sexual assault and child advocacy centers seeing minors for sexual assault follow up be explic­itly included in the bill’s list of stakeholders.

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Worker Protec­tion Act

Today, Julia Barcott, RN, testi­fied in support of House Bill 1076, the Worker Protec­tion Act. This bill allows whistle­blowers to bring actions on behalf of the state for viola­tions of workplace protec­tions, known as qui tam actions. She told legis­la­tors about how Yakima home hospice nurses she worked with a number of years ago shared concerns with her about missed breaks and overtime that went unpaid. These nurses would often stay beyond normal work hours, caring for a dying patient. They would go through appro­priate channels to request approval for overtime – and would be told they wouldn’t get it, and that they could submit their resig­na­tions if they had a problem with that. WSNA filed a lawsuit against the employer and won a nearly $2.9 million settle­ment. The Court ruled that their employer acted​“knowingly, willfully, and with the intent to deprive” the nurses of pay for their hours worked and their missed meal breaks. But the Washington State Supreme Court threw out the ruling on appeal, saying WSNA didn’t have standing to bring this case – so the nurses got nothing and have no further recourse. Julia urged legis­la­tors to change the law to protect workers like these nurses in providing another pathway so that justice can prevail.

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Upcoming Events

Just like the legisla­tive session, our Lobby Day will be held virtu­ally this year. Legis­la­tors want to hear from you. Join us – your voice is more essen­tial than ever.

February 4 WSNA Lobby Day

More infor­ma­tion and regis­tra­tion links are here.

This event is for WSNA members only.

Please look for regular email updates on legisla­tive action as the legisla­tive session gets underway – we look forward to your partic­i­pa­tion in the process!