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Nurses in the lead

The Union Leadership Awards recognize those who have stepped forward and led the way over the past year — or, in some cases, the past several decades.

This story was published in the Spring-Summer 2022 issue of The Washington Nurse.

This story appears in 2022 Union Leadership Conference.

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Yunna Flenord, Shelly Mead, Emily D'Anna, Sally Budack, Pamela Chandran and Barbara Friesen

2022 Union Leadership Awards

The Union Leadership Awards recognize those who have stepped forward and led the way over the past year — or, in some cases, the past several decades.

Nurse leadership always matters — but over the past two years we’ve seen more clearly than ever just how big a difference leadership makes. Our leaders and activists are the glue that hold WSNA together in normal times, and in these extraordinary times they have done extraordinary things. Our leaders’ courage, dedication, tenacity and generosity have made such a huge difference. In fact, the work of our member leaders over the past couple of years has been so above and beyond that we couldn’t select only one awardee per category — in most cases we selected two.

Each recipient was nominated by members and the winners selected by WSNA’s Cabinet on Economic & General Welfare, the body elected to guide WSNA’s union work.

OUTSTANDING LOCAL UNIT CHAIRPERSONS

Sara Bergenholtz
Central Washington Hospital, Wenatchee
Sara has taken on her role as Local Unit Chair with gusto. In addition to attending all meetings with management, she chairs the Nurse Practice Committee and sits on the Nurse Staffing Committee as the local unit officer representative. She also serves as a member of the WSNA Board of Directors. Sara understands that leadership is about building a team, and she has worked diligently to find unit reps, staffing committee members, and members to join the leadership team in many roles. She has also invested in reaching members in every way possible, including by launching her local unit podcast and in moderating the unit’s Facebook group. Sara sets an example for all WSNA local unit chairs, and the members at Central as well as her colleagues in local leadership.

Karla Fowler
PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center, Longview
Karla has held down the fort as the only local unit officer at PeaceHealth St. John. Over six months, the local unit was engaged in continual contract negotiations, COVID-related grievances, staffing issues and all the day-to-day challenges we all face. Through it all, Karla has served not just as the sole local unit officer, but also as an ICU nurse. Karla works hand-in-hand with members at large to support the local unit, and she continued to give her all for St. John’s nurses through the tragic loss of her own mother. Karla’s dedication shines brightly and clearly for every member at St. John.

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LEFT: Jacob Garcia and Jennifer Reynolds. TOP RIGHT: Julia Barcott and Sara Bergenholtz. BOTTOM RIGHT: Liz Rainaud.

LOCAL UNIT STARS

Jennifer Reynolds
Harbor Regional Health Community Hospital, Aberdeen
In nominating Jennifer, her colleagues called her a “WSNA dynamo!!” Looking at the nomination and her contributions, it’s easy to see why. Jennifer served as a leading member of the local unit’s bargaining team through more than a year of difficult negotiations. She helped build member support and solidarity by organizing a local unit rally and picnic with music, great food, and the participation of local elected leaders and labor leaders who came out to show solidarity. Jennifer helped organize member gifts for National Nurses Day to boost morale and solidarity—and she did it all while working in a critically under-staffed unit. Jennifer continues to exemplify local unit leadership with her tireless, can-do attitude.

Naomi Kincaide
CHI Franciscan St. Joseph Medical Center, Tacoma
Naomi joined the St. Joe’s bargaining team for the first time in 2021—a contract cycle in which the local unit was nearly forced to strike before management finally agreed to a fair contract. As a recent grad, Naomi immediately connected to the idea that nurses need to support each other and work together — especially new nurses who hope to survive their first years and stay in the profession for a career. She joined the bargaining team as soon as she could and immediately went to work inside and outside negotiations, including recruiting other new nurses to become unit reps. She helped other new nurses find their courage to speak during informational pickets about the struggles facing new nurses and worked with others in her department to build membership. As a result of her work, her formerly sleepy med-surg unit reached nearly 100% membership. Naomi is a shining example of the leadership of new nurses, and with young leaders like her the future of WSNA is bright.

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Janet Stewart on behalf of Dawn Morrell, who was unable to be present

OUTSTANDING NEGOTIATING TEAMS

St. Joe’s Negotiating Team
CHI Franciscan St. Joseph Medical Center, Tacoma
This incredible team was a tremendous example of how to steer a bargaining unit with courage, compassion and unity as they faced down CHI St. Joe’s Tacoma management through challenging bargaining. Team members Dian Davis, Sally Budack, Linda Burbank, Shelly Mead, Matthew McGuire, Emily D’Anna, Katy Heffernan, Brandon Hardaway, Yunna Flenord and Naomi Kincade all went far beyond the requirements to mobilize their local unit and build the solidarity that eventually stood up to management and won.

The team together demonstrated diversity, professional dedication, integrity, friendliness, reliability and sacrifice during countless hours. They provided exemplary communication and demonstrated commitment to the nurses in the unit and to the community they serve. Their united strength gave the entire nurse force at St Joe's the confidence and resolve that was needed to achieve a strong contract and avoided the hardship of a strike.

St. John Negotiating Team
PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center, Aberdeen
This dedicated team of Karla Fowler, Sarah Rice, Mike Rogen, Jennifer Buckhalter, Elena Brent, Christine Mitchell, Elizabeth Brassfield, Kathy Arnesen and Annie Johnson began negotiations in July 2021. The team stuck together—and kept their local unit informed and engaged—despite management’s nonstop games. Management canceled six bargaining dates in September, and rescheduled negotiations at the last minute, but the team stayed committed and strong. They worked to bargain a contract with the entire nursing staff’s best interest in mind, and with commitment to deliver the best possible contract for their local unit. When a first tentative agreement was rejected by the unit in December 2021, they went back to the table and secured a stronger deal with no takeaways. Members ratified the contract in January 2022, and this team’s contribution and dedication delivered significant gains for the members of their unit.

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Yunna Flenord and Paul Molenaar

OUTSTANDING GRIEVANCE OFFICER

Dawn Morrell
MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital, Puyallup
Dawn has been a WSNA member since 1984 and has contributed enormously to her colleagues and to our profession. In the years she has served as Grievance Officer, Dawn has been dedicated to ensuring nurses in the bargaining unit receive fair representation. She has a deep knowledge of the union contract. Thanks in no small part to her 10 years representing the 25th District in the Washington House of Representatives, Dawn also knows Washington labor law inside and out. Every member of her team knows Dawn has their backs if the employer breaches contract. In addition to her role as Grievance Officer, Dawn goes above and beyond for nurses at Good Samaritan, serving as the Nurse Staffing Committee Co-Chair and working hard with her team to establish staffing plans for each unit. She brings forward ADO issues to both Conference Committee and Staffing Committee. She has fought for fair contracts as a member of the negotiations team and has served on the WSNA-PAC and Legislative & Health Policy Council.

MEMBERSHIP AWARDS

Paul Molenaar
Central Washington Hospital, Wenatchee
As one member wrote in his nomination, “Paul has the New Hire Orientation presentation down to a science.” Paul Molenaar has been the membership chair at Central for more than six years, and he is known for engaging new hires early and with enthusiasm. Every new hire receives a membership application promptly, and Paul is always working to engage new hires and grow our union to build power for nurses at Central. Paul sits on Conference Committee, where he is an advocate for his local unit. Each and every day, Paul’s commitment to his local unit nurses and to WSNA shines through.

Liz Rainaud
Skagit Regional Health, Mount Vernon
Liz has been an elected WSNA officer at Skagit Regional Health for more than 15 years. She utilizes a personal approach to newly hired nurses and makes sure she is visible and accessible to all nurses at Skagit. She attends new hire orientations and truly is that welcoming co-worker’s voice and face. Liz was instrumental in organizing a New Nurse Coffee Hour at Skagit. This is held monthly, and all nurses hired within the last two years can come for a cup of coffee and discussion about issues, the contract and membership. She is always the first to offer up the benefits of membership to any and all who ask.

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LEFT: Edna Cortez and Ruby Crisostomo Tan. RIGHT: Jon Olson, Sarah Rice and Karla Fowler (PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center local unit).

ADVERSITY AWARDS

Ruby Crisostomo Tan
Formerly Fresenius Kidney Care, Tacoma
Ruby was working for the CHI Franciscan St. Joseph Medical Center dialysis unit when the unit was sold to Fresenius Renal Care Group. Ruby, along with many other nurses, saw the value of being unionized and encouraged their co-workers to unionize with WSNA at Fresenius. This was not an easy task. They met strong resistance from management every step of the way, including more than 18 months to negotiate a contract. Ruby stuck it out from beginning to end, leading her coworkers while also facing difficult working conditions, working long hours without breaks and facing unfair treatment by management. The constant targeting by management took a toll on her health and well-being, and after four years, she resigned from Fresenius and became a med-surg nurse at St. Joe’s. Ruby’s leadership and dedication through adversity have benefited her colleagues and our profession.

Surgical Services RNs — ACS, PACU, OR and Pre-Op
PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center, Aberdeen
When COVID-19 shut down surgical services, nurses in related departments were called to work in departments facing critical care situations. In many cases, these nurses stepped up to fill ICU capacity in overflow ICUs as cases rose past the capacity of traditional ICUs to treat our patients. While we hope never to see another situation that puts nurses into these potentially dangerous situations, we could not be more proud of the professionalism and dedication nurses showed in rising to the occasion. This award recognizes the Surgical Services RNs at PeaceHealth St. John who served overflow capacity during the pandemic in recognition for their hard work and sacrifice.

EMERITUS AWARD

Paul Kunkel
Formerly Public Health – Seattle & King County Staff
Paul retired from Public Health after serving as vice chair for three years and chair for three years. Paul's dedication to his bargaining unit members spanned multiple difficult contract negotiations. He kept his unit together despite many budget challenges at Public Health. He paid special attention to holding management accountable for staffing issues, particularly in Jail Health Services. Paul has emphasized how important it is to have transparency from the employer, and how decisions that are made at the top impact the clients that Public Health serves. In the face of great challenges, Paul never stopped advocating for and supporting his colleagues, who collectively recognized the importance of providing nursing services to underserved and medically indigent populations in our community. In his last official function as the Chair of his unit, Paul brought that clarity of purpose to our elected leaders, participating in a virtual meeting with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal to highlight the issues all nurses and specifically public health nurses face during the COVID-19 pandemic.