Massive picket in Vancouver by PeaceHealth SW nurses

Nurses get support from local officials, labor leaders, the community

More than a thousand people turned out for the WSNA informational picket April 18 at PeaceHealth Southwest in Vancouver, Washington, to support several issues management has not agreed on after four months of bargaining— staffing, wages, sick time, parity for home health and hospice nurses, and workplace violence.

The four-lane road outside the hospital was flanked by nurses dressed in WSNA blue shirts, waving signs and receiving the love of the community with trucks, buses, cars, and motorcycles honking in support.

The rally featured nurses, local officials, labor leaders, and others with messages of support for the 1,465 nurses represented by WSNA.

“What an incredible turnout,” said Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle. “We could hear you way down the street. We so appreciate you standing up for those that can’t.”

McEnerny-Ogle said she loved the signs, pointing out two that read “Take care of those who take care of you” and “My momma is a union nurse.”

“We are blessed to have you in the city of Vancouver,” she said. “We know how hard it was for you in the pandemic. We know how hard it is for you now. We’re here to support you and defend you.”

Other local officials — State Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver), chair of the Senate Health and Long-term Care and State Rep. Monica Stonier (D-Vancouver) —also voiced their support at the afternoon rally.

“For the past four years we have faced the challenges of an unprecedented pandemic. And you came to work each and every day with a threat to your physical health and a threat to your mental health and yet you persevered,” said Sen. Cleveland. “You were here when families needed you.”

Labor leaders —Kevin Hart with the International Association of Firefighters, Dekean Letinch with Laborers International Union of North America, and Anne Tan Piazza, executive director with Oregon Nurses Association— offered their solidarity.

“I want you to know your Vancouver firefighter’s union is standing here right with you,” said Hart whose wife is a nurse.

Several nurses also spoke out, including Brooke Churchman (home hospice), Jacob Clark (cardiovascular intensive care unit), Joan Ngarachu (post anesthesia care unit), Didi Gray (labor and delivery), and Kathy Arnesen, former nurse at PeaceHealth Southwest who is now at St. John’s in Longview.

  • P1010197
  • 240418 swwmc picket 12 line 1
  • P1010288
  • P1010156
  • P1010422
  • 240418 swwmc picket 13 crowd 1
  • 240418 swwmc picket gray didi
  • P1010369
  • 240418 swwmc picket gill justin
  • 240418 swwmc picket ngarachu joan
  • 240418 swwmc picket mcenerny ogle anne
  • 240418 swwmc picket cortez edna
  • 240418 swwmc picket nelson elmore travis
  • 240418 swwmc picket motorcycle vroom

“Today is an important day. It marks the bravery of nurses at PeaceHealth Southwest,” said RN Jacob Clark. “We have seen the success across the river in Portland and we are ready for this fight.” 
Clark called the nurses survivors for getting through the pandemic and getting spat on, cursed at, and hit by patients.

“Why are we losing nurses to other hospitals?” said RN Joan Ngarachu. “Why are we training nurses to go to other hospitals?... We have done our part. They need to do their part.”

David Keepnews, executive director of WSNA, thanked the nurses for standing up for fairness.

“There is nothing shocking in what you are asking for…You are looking for what’s fair, for what’s working for you, for what will keep you here, and for what will keep safe patient care.”

WSNA President Justin Gill told the crowd that health organizations should not underestimate nurses, the experts on patient care.

“Nurses are not going to be told how to deliver patient care. They are going to tell these health organizations the best way to deliver patient care,” he said,

The picket received press coverage in several publications (Vancouver Columbian, Lund Report, High Country News, Portland Business Journal, The Stand, KATU-TV (ABC affiliate in Portland), and KPTV-TV (Fox affiliate in Beaverton).

Bobbi Nodell is the editor of Washington Nurse Magazine and the communications and marketing manager for WSNA.