Nurses feeling their power in several contract wins

United local units are finally convincing management they have to do better to keep nurses at their facilities.

This story was published in the Fall 2022 issue of The Washington Nurse.

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Top and above right: Informational picket and rally at Seattle Children’s Hospital on Aug. 9, 2022. Above left: Negotiating team members.

Registered nurses at Seattle Children’s Hospital were on the verge of voting to strike when they received a tentative agreement with unprecedented wage increases. At Astria Toppenish, 30 of 80 registered nurses had quit, but the remaining RNs ratified a contract in August, making them among the highest paid nurses in Eastern Washington. Meanwhile, registered nurses at Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee won a 16% across-the-board wage increase over three years and a $1,200 ratification bonus.

Victories like these are among recent contract wins across the state. United local units are finally convincing management they have to do better to keep nurses at their facilities.

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Upper row of photos: Nurses at Astria Toppenish Hospital vote unanimously to approve their new contract on Aug. 18 and 19, 2022. Above: WSNA nurse representative Laurie Anderson with negotiating team members Angi Scott, Evette Kendall, Lisa Bullek, Julia Barcott, Clara Bucio, and Steve Hogsett.

Seattle Children’s Hospital

More than 900 nurses at Seattle Children’s took part in an informational picket outside the hospital on Aug. 9 demanding changes to their contract. The tentative agreement was reached at 3:30 a.m. Aug. 16 after 19 hours of talks.

The new contract offers unprecedented wage increases — $10/hour over the next 12 months.

By August 2024, the base rate for newly graduated nurses will be the highest in the city ($47.60/hour). By the end of the three-year contract, a nurse on the beginning step of the wage scale will see their pay increase by 49.7%.

The agreement converts wage progression to an equitable annual advancement based on years of experience, not hours worked.

“The best way to retain newer nurses and grow the next generation is to raise the floor,” said Pamela Chandran, labor counsel for the Washington State Nurses Association. “We were able to make the wage scale more equitable for nurses at the lower end of the scale while ensuring that senior nurses received increases we’ve never seen before at Children’s.”

Astria Toppenish Hospital

The 63-bed community hospital next to the Yakama Nation is part of a three-hospital system bought by Regional Health in September 2017 and a month later rebranded as Astria Health. The nonprofit health system filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 2019 and, in early 2020, closed its 214-bed hospital in Yakima.

Faced with uncertainty and the stress of the pandemic, more than a third of the registered nurses at Astria Toppenish quit.

Nurses did not get retention bonuses like nurses in some neighboring hospitals. During contract negotiations, the bargaining team originally asked for higher wages and a bonus. Management came back with even better wages than they asked for and no bonus.

The contract victory will result in nurses receiving between 20% – 34% wage increases immediately and an additional 3% across the board in each of the next two years.

Increases were achieved in shift differentials, BSN/MSN and certification pay, preceptor and charge pay. New language and pay were secured for a float premium. The hospital agreed to write off the balance of medical expenses for employees and immediate family members after insurance payments for service provided at Astria Toppenish — a significant win for nurses.

“This contract raises everyone up,” said Julia Barcott, a registered nurse working in the hospital’s intensive care unit. “People have told me, ‘I was looking around, but now I’m staying.’”

Central Washington Hospital

Central Washington Hospital is part of Confluence Health, North Central Washington’s largest healthcare system, located in Wenatchee.

After 11 sessions, the 530 registered nurses at Central Washington won their 16% raises and $1,200 ratification bonus, along with guaranteed vacations and more personal time off. The contract was ratified on June 30.

Shift differential and standby pay were also increased. For nurses who have been called back from standby, short-rest overtime pay will now be paid. Nurses are guaranteed two vacations a year instead of one, with none of the vacations being less than seven days. And nurses will have the right to cash out an additional 40 hours of PTO for a total of 120 hours each year.

Tracey Kasnic, Confluence Health chief nursing officer, told the Wenatchee World that Central Washington Hospital alone has nearly 130 vacancies for inpatient nurses and hopes this contract will retain and attract new nurses.

The hospital is also trying out a new system which should allow nurses to go on break without shifting their work onto other staff while they step off the floor.

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This page: Nurses at Central Washington Hospital. Above: Negotiating team members (front row) Sara Bergenholtz and Danielle Franco-Malone with WSNA Nurse Representative Carmen Garrison and (back row) Blaine Wuertz, Stefanie Gates, Paul Molenaar, Nicholas Jackson, Karla Bourgeois, and Lorna Sebastian.

Astria Sunnyside Hospital

After four months of bargaining, Astria Sunnyside nurses reached an agreement on a new three-year contract. The agreement delivers many improvements, including long-awaited across-the-board raises totaling 12.5% over three years. Nurses also won a retention bonus, increases to hourly premiums, and a guarantee that all shifts on incentive-bonus days are paid at double time.

This agreement includes increases to continuing education funds, minimum notice for being placed on standby before a shift, and grievance and arbitration rights extended to per diem nurses.

Cascade Medical Center

Cascade Medical Center nurses in Leavenworth negotiated a new wage scale and salary increase in a one-year successor agreement and will prepare for full bargaining in 2023.

CHI Franciscan St. Clare Hospital

Nurses at CHI Franciscan St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood ratified an agreement that included across-the-board increases of 19% over three years. Additionally, ghost steps on the salary schedule were removed, and the per diem differential was increased from 12% to 15%. Night shift differentials were increased by nearly 12%, standby pay increased over 6%, charge-nurse pay by 10%, and BSN/MSNs will receive an hourly pay differential for all compensated hours.

In the new contract language, any nurse who documents a missed meal/rest break will not be subject to retaliation or intimidation, and the Nurse Staffing Committee will review reports of missed meal/rest breaks, including a breakdown by unit and shift. Nurses also won new Assignment Despite Objection (ADO) “buddy” language that allows a nurse to bring another nurse of their choice to a meeting whenever the manager is going to discuss an ADO with the nurse who filed it.


WSNA members at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland delivered powerful messages to management at the bargaining table and participated in workplace actions to underscore the unsustainable conditions nurses are facing on their units, including understaffing and mandatory overtime.

WSNA proposals focused on safe staffing and a compensation package that will attract and retain nurses. After three months and nine bargaining sessions, nurses won wage increases of more than 13% over three years in addition to $3,000 in retention bonuses. Increases in overtime and standby pay were also achieved. A new weekend-only position was negotiated with enhanced pay, and rest-between-shift pay was extended to home care nurses.

WSNA nurses also beat back efforts by management to replace sick and vacation leave with PTO, extend the probationary period, interrupt meal and rest breaks, and roll back penalties for not providing required rest between shifts

Benton-Franklin Health District

Public health district nurses at Benton-Franklin in Kennewick negotiated a wage increase of 6% over two years. Two additional steps were added to the salary schedule, and a new bilingual certification premium was negotiated. Nurses also won increased education-leave benefits, expanded sick leave usage, and additional bereavement leave.

Ocean Beach Hospital

Ocean Beach Hospital nurses in llwaco negotiated a one-year contract extension with a 5% wage increase and will prepare for full bargaining in 2023.

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Top: Clinical documentation specialists at Sacred Heart Medical Center (shown here with WSNA nurse representative Jaclyn Smedley, back row, right) vote to join the bargaining unit on March 7, 2022. Bottom: Members at St. Joseph Medical Center – Bellingham come out in force to support their negotiating team during one of 13 bargaining sessions.

Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center (Documentation Specialists)

After months of organizing and a year of bargaining, the clinical documentation specialists reached an agreement that adds them to the WSNA Sacred Heart Medical Center contract in Spokane. Clinical documentation specialists analyze inpatient charts to capture medical treatments or diagnoses for billing purposes and are an important part of the care team.

WhidbeyHealth Medical Center

Nurses at WhidbeyHealth won historic gains in the latest round of bargaining. Across-the-board wage increases combined with step increases will increase nurse pay by between 12.5% and 25% over three years.

Important improvements in daily overtime, charge nurse premium, and MSN and certification premiums were secured.

The bargaining team won language extending to part-time nurses time-and-a-half pay for all hours worked when called in on their day off and new language requiring the employer to pay a minimum of three hours for a callback. Nurses also gained new and expanded float premiums, and time worked in callback was counted as shift premium pay.

WSNA nurses also beat back efforts to force nurses to use their PTO if their department is closed on a holiday, significantly reduce the PTO cap, and remove the 15% premium in lieu of benefits option for nurses working full-time.

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center – Bellingham

An agreement was reached after 13 bargaining sessions and a 10-day notice of an informational picket.

The new contract includes across-the-board increases of 12.5% over three years, an additional seniority step, and significant gains in numerous premiums and differentials.

New language was negotiated to provide financial support for student loan repayment, and a professional nurse advancement program was created, allowing staff nurses to develop and advance while continuing to work at the bedside.

WSNA nurses successfully fought off attempts by management to change start times at management’s discretion, impose variable schedules, and force per diems to work certain days and shifts. The nurses also fought off attempts to impose a new graduate float pool, which would have required new nurses to float without any float differential, as well as create a regional float pool in which nurses would “float” to Ketchikan Alaska, United General, and Peace Island.

Arbor Health Morton Hospital

After seven negotiating sessions, including a final 10-hour session, WSNA nurses at Arbor Health in Morton reached an agreement that includes wage increases between 15% to more than 27% over three years. Nurses and LPNs also won a bonus, increased premiums, and a new BSN premium. New nondiscrimination language was secured, as was pay for participating in investigatory, disciplinary, or grievance proceedings. Paid time was given to attend the Nurse Staffing Committee, and the contract states that nurses cannot be retaliated against or disciplined for making a report or complaint to the staffing committee.

Nurses beat back efforts to reduce the amount of rest between shifts and eliminate the cap on the amount of low census a nurse is required to take.

PeaceHealth Peace Island Medical Center

This agreement for WSNA nurses in Friday Harbor includes across-the-board increases of 16.5% over three years. Ghost steps were filled in, and an additional step was added to the salary schedule. Pay for the nurse-team lead and clinic-team lead along with standby pay and preceptor pay were all increased in this agreement.

Meal and rest-break language was clarified to ensure a lunch break for each shift of five hours or more unless the nurse waives the second lunch. New lactation language was also added specifying facilities available to the nurse.