Update on progress of bill to create safe staffing standards in Washington

State senators need to hear loud and clear from their constituents that this bill should stay as strong as possible.

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Last Friday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee voted to pass an amended version of SB 5236. It is worth celebrating that this bill is continuing to move forward through the legislative process, even as we know the fight for a strong version with meaningful enforcement provisions is ongoing. At this point, a few senators have prevented us from implementing statewide safe staffing standards across the board as initially proposed. Despite this, the committee did amend SB 5236 to strengthen staffing committees and improve enforcement, setting a solid foundation for us to keep fighting for safe staffing standards. We’re confident this agreement gets us closer to enforceable staffing standards by establishing penalties for hospitals that continue to violate staffing plans, and under the amended bill, if hospitals continue those violations, they would be subject to Labor and Industries’ strict enforcement of safe staffing standards.

The most important thing for all healthcare workers to know is that negotiations at the Capitol around this bill – what staffing standards and enforcement will look like – are ongoing as we speak, and state senators need to hear loud and clear from their constituents that this bill should stay as strong as possible.

There is still time for hospital lobbyists to try to weaken the bill, but that means there is also time for us to make our voices heard. Contacting your senator, and encouraging your coworkers, family, friends, and community to do so as well, is the main way we can keep up the pressure. Share your experiences with short-staffing and what it means for your patients. Let them know what the current lack of accountability around staffing plans looks like day to day. Make it clear that their constituents are paying attention and demanding action.

Our next hurdle will be to get SB 5236 passed off the Senate floor by March 8th. We thank Sen. June Robinson for being our legislative champion on behalf of Washington’s healthcare workers and Sen. Christine Rolfes, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, for keeping the focus on this bill until it was voted out of committee.

Your work and advocacy up to this point have been invaluable. We encourage you to continue reaching out to your Legislators to urge them to pass SB 5236.