Membership growth and engagement

Remain the leading voice and advocate for the diverse registered nurses in all roles and settings who live and/or work in Washington state through continued membership growth and active member engagement.

This story appears in 2021 to 2023 biennial report.

Bargained for 43 contracts in 2021 and 2022 and received historic gains at several facilities, including Seattle Children’s, Tacoma General, St. Joseph Medical Center, UW Medical Center Northwest and Montlake campuses, PeaceHealth Southwest, and Astria Toppenish.

Organized informational pickets at St. John Medical Center in Longview on September 28, 2021, St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma Nov. 4, 2021, and Seattle Children’s Hospital on Aug. 9, 2022.

Successfully advanced several priorities at the ANA Membership Assembly in 2022, including promoting enforceable safe patient standards; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and a zero-tolerance approach to workplace verbal abuse and violence.

In 2022, the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, appointed WSNA Executive Director David Keepnews as a vice-president and executive board member.

Organized a vigil for slain home-health nurse Douglas Brant in December 2022, with more than 250 in attendance.

WSNA’s Hall of Fame dinner in March 2022 honored the dedication and achievement of six Washington RNs who have changed the practice, research, educational opportunities, and governing policies of nursing in our state: Sofia Aragon, Sally Herman, Anne Hirsch, Pamela Mitchell, Sally Watkins, and (posthumously) Catherine Natsuko Yamaguchi Chin. This was our first public event since the pandemic, and it was wonderful to celebrate nurses who have made significant lifetime contributions to the profession of nursing.

Organized WSNA’s Union Leadership Conference in Lake Chelan April 24-26, 2022. More than 100 nurses from 25 WSNA facilities attended. Featured speakers included AFT President Randi Weingarten on the national landscape for labor, Washington State Labor Council Secretary Treasurer April Sims on how unions can respond to inequities in healthcare and racism in the professional practice environment, WSNA Director of Nursing Practice Gloria Brigham and WSNA Labor Attorney Pamela Chandran on the criminalization of medical errors, and WSNA Executive Director David Keepnews on the state of the WSNA union.

In January 2023, 309 nursing students attended Advocacy Camp and received a Certificate of Participation, up from 272 in 2022.

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Travis Elmore leads union chants on the picket line at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Aug. 9, 2022.

Info picket power

Informational pickets are an awesome demonstration of solidarity that win gains at the bargaining table.

The picket at St. Joseph Tacoma led to several gains, including $2,500 bonuses, 19% wage increases over three years, buddies when filing a complaint on Assignment Despite Objection (ADO), no more ghost steps in wage scales, piloting a tool for staffing, and allowing nurses to be on a Do Not Call list. The picket at Seattle Children’s was covered by every major news outlet in the state and helped bring historic wage increases and gains to the 1,800 WSNA nurses, setting the stage for negotiations throughout the state. Over three years, the base rate will increase 31%, and nurses will get extended leaves for the birth of a child (six months, up from three months, and holiday time will accrue double time.)

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Informational picket at St. Joseph Medical Center – Tacoma, on Nov. 3, 2021.

ANA Membership Assembly

WSNA had 13 voting representatives — the largest delegation from any state nurses association — at the American Nurses Association Membership Assembly, held in Washington, D.C., on June 10-11, 2022.

WSNA introduced language supporting enforceable staffing standards, including ratios. Although amendments to this language added other considerations, the essential points supporting enforceable staffing standards remained.

The final language read: “ANA supports safe patient standards including ratios that are acuity and setting specific as per nursing assessment and enforceable”; it also calls for ANA to engage with the state nurses associations to develop further details regarding standards, implementation, and enforcement, as well as supporting the development of evidence-based standards for all nursing specialties. This final statement was approved by the Membership Assembly by a vote of 95% to 5%.

WSNA Executive Director David Keepnews serves on a committee of Constituent/State Nurses Association leaders advising the ANA Board of Directors on implementing ANA’s position.

In addition, the ANA Membership Assembly approved a statement on racial reckoning by acclamation, along with resolutions on a zero-tolerance approach to verbal abuse and violence in all settings, and taking a strong leadership position in addressing the impacts of climate change on human and population health, including helping prepare nurses to engage patients in conversations about climate change and its health impacts.

American Federation of Teachers

At the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) 2022 Convention, held in Boston in July 2022, WSNA was represented by 11 delegates and four staff members. WSNA and the Connecticut Federation of Teachers cosponsored a resolution on healthcare professionals mental health; WSNA also supported resolutions on the healthcare staffing crisis and on educational support for professional nursing. All three resolutions passed overwhelmingly.

Julia Barcott, chair of the Cabinet on Economic & General Welfare, and Executive Director David Keepnews were appointed to AFT’s Healthcare Staffing Shortage Task Force, which issued a comprehensive report in November 2022. The report was launched at AFT Healthcare’s Professional Issues Conference (PIC) in Chicago, in which several WSNA members and staff participated. Cabinet Vice-chair Edna Cortez spoke as part of a panel on the challenges facing healthcare workers on the job; Labor Counsel Pamela Chandran spoke on a panel on criminalization of healthcare workers.

Student debt clinics

Over 200 nurses attended WSNA’s 20 student debt clinics in King and Pierce counties in 2021 and 2022. These clinics, created by the American Federation of Teachers, are designed to help nurses apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), a federal program that allows individuals working for public and not-for-profit employers to eliminate their student loan debt after 10 years of on-time payments. We expanded the program so that all nurses in the area, not only WSNA members, could access it.

The Rainier Olympic Nurses Association (RONA) partnered with WSNA in the Pierce County clinics. RONA has involved nursing students in the clinics so that they are able to start preparing for PSLF after graduation.

Any nurse who works for a nonprofit or public employer for at least 30 hours a week may be eligible for PSLF.

WSNA members represented by WSNA for collective bargaining also have access to Summer, a free on-line program that provides assistance in applying for student loan forgiveness. AFT partnered with the online resource Summer to help members with student debt (https://www.meetsummer.org).

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Trudy Dant, Doug Brant’s sister and a fellow nurse, shares memories of her brother at a candlelight vigil in Spokane, Dec. 21, 2020.

Vigil for Doug Brant

WSNA held a beautiful and moving candlelight vigil in Spokane Dec. 21, 2022, for Doug Brant, a home health nurse with Providence Visiting Nurses Association (PVNA) in Spokane, who was shot and killed on the job. The event was held in the Grand Ballroom of the DoubleTree Civic Center. The lights were dimmed, and an estimated 250 people held battery-operated candles as speakers celebrated his life.

Guests heard from several touching speakers.

Brant’s colleagues Kathleen Thompson and Amanda Crawford offered stories collected from colleagues. They talked about how Brant, a talented musician, once picked up an out-of-tune guitar with only three strings at a nursing patient’s home and managed to play a song by one of the patient’s favorite bands.

Speakers at the vigil urged those in attendance to refrain from policy debates about gun violence or workplace violence and focus instead on the life and work of the late nurse, musician, and brother.

“What gives any real meaning to that is if we take the time to reflect on our heroes like Doug,” said David Keepnews, Washington State Nurses Association executive director. “I think that’s really what tonight is about.”

Trudy Dant, Brant’s sister, shared a job with him at PVNA. She shared memories of growing up in a small house with their mother that was home to a revolving door of people down on their luck. Their mother taught them to always put people first, and he did, she said.

“He was a gifted soul,” said Lynette Vehrs, Washington State Nurses Association president, who said she knew Brant personally. “You need that in home nursing.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten reminded everyone of the magic of home health nurses and how during the season of Hanukkah, we are reminded of the importance of light.

Our many thanks to Jaclyn Smedley, WSNA’s nurse representative for PVNA, who surrounded the Providence nurses and Brant’s family with so much support, including this vigil.