Contract negotiations update #5

Hoo boy, where to start….

On Thursday, June 16, 2022, we met with management for our 5th bargaining session, and we are deep into economic discussions. The most striking thing to us is not (just) that Seattle Children’s Hospital wants to pay so little after two and a half years of pandemic, a 20% vacancy rate, and astonishingly high inflation rates, but that it stubbornly insists that its proposed raises will lead “the market” in the Seattle/Tacoma area. This is despite the fact that we all know that Children’s is not only losing nurses to travel assignments and places like Portland and California, but also to work at other local (and not so local) hospitals like Evergreen and PeaceHealth St. Joe’s in Bellingham!

The myth of “the market leader”

When Children’s tells us it is leading the market, it is interpreting wages in an academic – not real world – way. That is, it is laying its wage scale next to other hospitals’ scales and seeing that its scale is higher and then congratulates itself. But that isn’t how a nurse calculates compensation. Consider this current, actual example:

A SCH staff nurse who works .6 FTE has 26 years of RN experience. Because of the retrograde way Children’s determines step progression based on hours worked, this nurse is at Step 14 - $55.77/hour. The nurse has recently taken an additional per diem position at Evergreen. There, they are paid for 25 years of experience - $64.17/hour – this nurse makes 15% more at Evergreen before the per diem differential. (We raised this anecdote at the bargaining table and management’s faces clearly showed that they had never contemplated this possibility that a nurse could make more at a neighboring hospital because that hospital – like the industry standard – calculates seniority on a year-for-year basis, and not by hours.) That nurse additionally gets $1.00 per hour for a BSN differential – another proposal we have made and management has rejected. (Note: we proposed on the first day of negotiations – and continue to hold – that the hospital needs to come up to industry standard and acknowledge each year of RN experience for purposes of step progression. We proposed that this start prospectively and that every nurse below their years of experience on the wage scale come up to the appropriate step on ratification. Children’s has rejected this proposal multiple times.)

If all Children’s is doing is laying two wage scales side by side, sure, at some steps its wages will be higher. But if you’re paying people below their experience level, it is not an apples-to-apples comparison, particularly if there are premiums and differentials (the $1/hour BSN differential at Evergreen, a night differential of 19% of base rate at St. Joe’s in Bellingham, etc.) that add up.

Before we talk about the wages on the table, let’s take a look at

SCH Fun Financial Fact #4!

Between October ’21 and March ’22, Children’s paid $29.5 million to traveler nurses. It’s a hard fact around which to wrap one’s head. To put that in perspective, in the same period of time, the Hospital paid staff nurses $67 million – the Hospital paid the equivalent of 44% of staff nurse payroll to traveler nurses. Now, traveler nurses have been a godsend, but if this isn’t a textbook example of penny wise, pound foolish… Pay staff nurses better and in a more equitable manner. Higher wages will attract and retain long-term nurses who live in our communities and who are familiar with this hospital and our patients. Higher wages at SCH translate to an investment in staff, an investment in our communities, and an investment in our patients.

SC Htraveler graph

The Hospital’s wage proposals show it isn’t taking the nurse vacancy rate seriously

Given how much money the Hospital is spending on travelers, we felt compelled to only make a modest modification to our wage proposal remaining at 18% in year 2022, reducing to 14.5% in 2023 and 11.5% in 2024 with the usual three-year contract. We were left stunned when Seattle Children’s management responded to our wage proposal with 7% for steps 1-5 and 6.1% for steps 6-36 in 2022; 2.5% in 2023, 2.5% in 2024 and 1.5% in 2025. At the lowest ends of the wage scale, this is still substantially below what St. John’s pays in small-town Longview. The proposal from Seattle Children’s is completely inadequate to attract and retain nurses long term, let alone put a dent in the vacancy rate or reduce the number of travelers.

They are also rejecting our proposals on shift differentials (we proposed converting to a percentage-based system like PeaceHealth St. Joe’s and Peace Island), student loan repayment (PeaceHealth St. Joe’s recently agreed to repay nurses’ student loans up to $400/month – a very popular proposal, particularly among newer nurses), a proposal to simplify and make more equitable overtime for Ambulatory RN's, along with other economic adjustments. They are proposing a $0.50/hr increase to float pool premium, a $2/hr increase to the ECMO premium, a $0.50/hr night shift longevity differential and a $1/hr impatient premium. The economic proposal from management remains woeful and obtuse considering their inability to hire and hold on to nurses.

Get your calendars out and sharpen your Sharpies – it’s action time

Now is the time to stand UNITED IN SOLIDARITY to get the fair contract we deserve!

  • Ask a bargaining team member if you need a window sign and please sign our petition! We strongly encourage nurses find a unit rep or bargaining team member to sign the petition physically. The digital petition may also be signed, but we are asking that non-WSNA members primarily use the digital version.
  • Petition Signatures are DUE on June 26, 2022 because…
  • On June 28, 2022, we will be delivering the signed petitions to CEO Jeff Sperring! We will be gathering at 1000 outside of the river entrance. Contact Edna Cortez or WSNA Organizer Tara Barnes at tbarnes@wsna.org to join!
  • On July 6 from 1700-2100 we will have a union meeting! This meeting will be casual and drop in. We hope to have a hybrid format available…. Details to come!
  • We have set August 9, 2022 as our date for an INFORMATIONAL PICKET at the hospital! It’s time that community members and elected officials know what we know…. Nurses are not being respected and too many nurses feel that staffing levels are often not safe at the hospital!
  • “Sip and Chat” Sundays are here! While we are in negotiations, bargaining team members will be hosting informal virtual meetings with WSNA members on Sundays from 1930-2130. Click the button to join via Microsoft Teams or call in (206) 485-2614; Passcode: 171330812#

There are only 3 more bargaining dates left. Our next bargaining session is on June 30, 2022.

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In Solidarity,
Your negotiating team: Co-Chair Edna Cortez, PACU; Co-Chair Kara Yates, Medical Unit; Grievance Officer Diane Gates, PICU; Secretary/Treasurer Lindsey Kirsch, Urgent Care; Grievance Officer Erin Doyle, PATCH; Grievance Officer Samantha Lake, Operating Room; Katie Podobnik, Ambulatory; Sarah Munro, Bellevue Surgery Center; Shaina Lawson, NICU; Stefanie Chandos, ED; Annika Hoogesteraat, CVICU

Please contact Travis Elmore Nelson, WSNA Nurse Rep attelmore@WSNA.org or 206-575-7979 ext. 3117 with questions or to find out what you can do to get a fair contract!