PUYALLUP, Wash. – After 20 hours of bargaining, the nurses at MultiCare Good Samaritan reached a tentative agreement around 4:30 a.m. Thursday. They are thrilled. They will be getting 12%-24% raises, ratification bonuses of $3,500, dedicated break nurses, a charge nurse and flex nurse for each unit, and they will be getting staffing plans as part of their contract.
Nurses will vote to ratify the contract on June 29.
"We got a historic and amazing contract," said Jared Richardson, a registered nurse on the med-surg unit, and co-chair of the WSNA bargaining team at the hospital. "I'm thrilled."
Richardson said this contract will help retain nurses and attract new nurses.
"We really wanted Good Sam to be a place where nurses can feel part of the community."
The agreement comes after nurses overwhelmingly voted by 95% to strike Wednesday night.
The main issues for the 750 nurses represented by the Washington State Nurses Association were staffing and dedicated break nurses. The bargaining team provided several proposals, including putting the hospital’s own safe staffing plan filed with the Washington State Department of Health into their contract.
MultiCare rejected any proposal with language on safe staffing. Putting such language in a contract would make it harder for MultiCare to circumvent it.
“I voted to strike because I will fight to the end to keep my patients safe, even if it means going without pay,” said ICU nurse Atalia Lapkin. “We are asking MultiCare to safely staff the hospital and have been denied at every turn, despite MultiCare having enough money for a new tower, a hospital rebuild, a facility acquisition, and big bonuses at the highest level.”
Registered nurse Ashley Eubank said she voted yes on the strike to protect her license, her patients, and herself.
“This strike is about safety across the board. We want to be safe and keep our patients safe. But for some reason the hospital doesn’t want to help us create a safer environment, which is why it has come to something as drastic as a strike,” she said.
In the last two years, reported incidents where unsafe staffing posed a serious threat to the health and safety of a patient have gone up 600%. Nurses regularly go entire 12-hour shifts without being able to break and use the bathroom, eat, or rest.
The strike vote is a last resort for nurses and comes after an informational picket April 26, a hearing April 28 with the state Department of Health over a proposed new tower with 160 beds, and a vote of no confidence in the hospital’s CEO Bill Robertson on May 16. Nurses have gone three months without a contract.
At Good Sam’s sister hospital, MultiCare Tacoma General, meanwhile, WSNA nurses bargained for and won nurse-to-patient ratios in 2016, which cap the number of patients a nurse cares for, and they operate with break nurses.