Union solidarity and perseverance win fair contracts

WSNA members are raising their voices and standing together to win the contracts they deserve. Congratulations to these local units who recently won at the bargaining table (as of November 2021).

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

Union solidarity and perseverance win fair contracts

WSNA members are raising their voices and standing together to win the contracts they deserve. Congratulations to these local units who recently won at the bargaining table (as of November 2021).

After a marathon 14 ½–hour bargaining session and nearly four months of bargaining, WSNA members at UW Medical Center – Northwest in Seattle ratified an agreement that included the largest wage increase that RNs at Northwest have ever received! The agreement also included:

  • Increased standby pay and a tiered structure that increases eligibility.
  • Increased eligibility for rest-between-shifts premiums when called in from standby.
  • New language addressing the rebid/​restructure process.
  • Double time for unscheduled weekends.
  • Recognizing Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

Nurses at Northwest beat back efforts by the employer to implement mandatory floating between Northwest, UW Medical Center — Montlake and all other UW hospitals. Northwest nurses also prevented the elimination of current language that protects against mid-contract bargaining over subjects that are covered by the contract, as well as language that limits weekend shifts to every other weekend.

Members of the bargaining team fought hard at the negotiation table and recognized the power of members standing with them: “We couldn’t have done it without the support of all the nurses represented by WSNA.”

WSNA members at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle know a thing or two about perseverance; the local unit started bargaining a new agreement before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like other local units, the pandemic changed the course of bargaining. In June 2020, a one-year interim contract — which included wage increases, as well as items that had been tentatively agreed to in negotiations prior to the pandemic — was approved.

During the interim contract period, VM nurses were notified of a merger between Virginia Mason and Catholic-operated CHI Franciscan — raising concern about patient access to the full range of legal health services, including women’s health services and end-of-life care historically provided at VM. Nurses signed an open letter to the CEO and met with Washington state legislators to express their concerns.

In spring 2021, VM nurses were back at the bargaining table, where nurse retention and safe staffing were priorities. In response to management’s failure to accept commonsense proposals to recruit and retain nurses and improve staffing, nurses mobilized in support of their bargaining team. In addition to workplace visibility actions, nurses gathered stories for the negotiating team to demonstrate the very real staffing crisis nurses confront every day and on every shift. After 11 bargaining sessions and a 10-day notice to the employer of a public leafletting action at the doorsteps of the hospital, nurses at VM reached a tentative agreement.

The new agreement included wage increases that placed money where it was needed most so that VM is more competitive and can better retain and recruit nurses at all experience levels. Among other things, the agreement also doubled the number of clinical float pool nurses.

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Harbor Regional Health Community Hospital nurses Jason Kindel, Jennifer Reynolds, Jayme Garrison and Ryan Housden.

Perseverance also paid off for WSNA nurses at Harbor Regional Health Community Hospital in Aberdeen. For nearly a year, management at Harbor Regional came to the table insisting on significant takeaway proposals that included a vacation cap; cuts to time off; ​a use-it-or-lose-it vacation policy; lower per diem pay rates; increased per diem work requirements; and a separate pay scale with significantly lower pay for quality and care transition nurses. While management dragged out negotiations for nearly a year, many nurses, including long-term nurses, resigned due to the poor working conditions at the hospital.

Members of the bargaining team, with the backing and support of local unit nurses, resisted those takeaways. Members participated in visibility actions in support of their bargaining team and reached out to labor and community allies who signed a public petition in support of the nurses at Harbor Regional. Nurses met with elected leaders representing the community to discuss hospital turnover, hospital funding, staffing, nurse retention and safe working conditions.

When hospital management failed to recognize employees with a summer picnic, local unit members organized one to recognize nurses’ contributions and rally for a fair contract. Community and union allies also attended the picnic to support their community hospital nurses.

After a 12-hour bargaining session and nearly a year after bargaining began, an agreement was reached that included much-needed wage increases and language that allows the right to cash out PTO each year so that nurses who exceed PTO caps will not lose the right to accrue PTO.

Nurses also won important new language ensuring workplace violence prevention, including anti-retaliation language for making reports of workplace violence. Signage is now required on each unit stating the hospital’s no-tolerance-for-violence policy.

United Contract Win
Lacen Potter, Maryia Schwartz, Shawna Smith, Kelly Pearson and Lisa Harper (holding her cat, Figaro) at the contract ratification vote for PeaceHealth United General Medical Center.

Nurses at PeaceHealth United General Medical Center in Sedro-Woolley voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new two-year agreement that included competitive wage increases, as well as increases to lead differential pay, certification premiums and BSN/MSN premium pay. The bargaining team also negotiated new language providing float pool premium pay for the float team nurses at United.

Nurses at Skagit Regional Health in Mount Vernon voted overwhelmingly in support of a new agreement that increased nurse wages and several premiums — including charge nurse premiums, resource nurse premiums and standby pay. On staffing, nurses won improved language for the staffing committee and nurse practice committee that will improve the care nurses provide to the community. Bargaining team members energized their colleagues by sharing their passion for WSNA and reasons for stepping up to bargain a fair deal for all nurses at Skagit:

“I joined the WSNA bargaining team because I want to give my fellow co-workers a voice. I want to make our work environment a better place.” — Hannah Guy, BSN, RN, MPC, membership officer

“I joined the team because I wanted to be part of the solution. Trying to help make Skagit a better place for nurses to work and being part of the solution were my main goals for joining the executive team!” — Cheryl Pedersen, RN, CEN, ED, grievance officer

“I believe these are my fourth or fifth contract negotiations. Being a negotiating team member sounded interesting, and I always prefer to be part of the solution. I urge each one of you to become more familiar with our contract and get involved!” — Liz Rainaud, MSN, RNC-OB, FBC, chair

“I joined WSNA to support my co-workers. When we all stand together, we are stronger. I wanted to help maintain the benefits of our contract.” — Rachel Yates, RN, urgent care, treasurer