In this week’s update:
- Week 2 Recap
- WSNA Nurses Testify before Legislative Committees
- Upcoming Events: Advocacy Camp & Lobby Day
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!