UPDATE: In the early hours of Thursday morning, MultiCare Good Samaritan nurses represented by WSNA reached a tentative agreement with the hospital. More details coming soon.
PUYALLUP, Wash. -- MultiCare Good Samaritan nurses overwhelmingly voted by 95% to strike Wednesday night.
The 19th bargaining session is continuing into the night.
By law, the union must give the hospital 10 days’ notice of a strike.
The main issues for the 750 nurses represented by the Washington State Nurses Association are staffing and dedicated break nurses. The bargaining team has provided several proposals, including putting the hospital’s own safe staffing plan filed with the Washington State Department of Health into their contract.
MultiCare has 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.”
Jared Richardson, a registered nurse in Medicine-Palliative Care, and a co-chair of the local bargaining unit, said he has been at the table for every bargaining session and Good Sam’s “amazing nurses” deserve so much more than they are being offered.
“I voted yes because MultiCare says that they hear the concerns of the nurses, but their actions say otherwise. Maybe they will hear us now.”
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.
A strike date has not been set. Nurses are back at the bargaining table June 29.