Tacoma General nurses have achieved a major legal victory. Tacoma General must stop using the break buddy system and implement full break relief for nurses. WSNA has demanded implementation, and by agreeing to our first demand to post break relief positions, TG’s new management team has taken a tentative first step.
TG’s management has invited the nurses to form a committee to implement break relief. The committee is comprised of TG nurses, WSNA officers and WSNA counsel. The committee will work closely with each unit’s nurses to be sure that whatever break relief system is adopted for a particular unit reflects the wishes of that unit’s nurses.
On Jan. 17, TG nurses had the opportunity to meet with WSNA Senior Director of Labor Relations Christine Watts, WSNA Attorney David Campbell, Sydne James, your new nurse representative, and TG WSNA officers. The meeting included an update on the litigation and general agreement on the committee’s approach. More importantly, it allowed nurses from various units to discuss how to achieve meaningful breaks on their units. As expected, we found that one size does not fit all.
The committee will work to adopt a system tailored to each unit. If you hear anyone tell you how break relief will work on your unit, do not worry. Those decisions have not yet been made and you will be involved. To squelch one rumor, TG officers have heard NICU nurses’ concerns, and there is as yet no plan on what break relief changes will be made in the NICU…
We have to move fast. Please complete this four-minute assessment questionnaire to assist the committee with this important work. Without your input, we will not have your valuable perspective. Deadline to respond is Feb. 17.
Questions? Contact WSNA Nurse Representative Sydne James at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 206-575-7979, ext. 3004.
When: Friday, Feb. 22 from 9-11 a.m.
Where: Pierce County Nurses Assoc. office (223 Tacoma Ave S, 98402)
This event is for you if:
- You are a WSNA elected officer or grievance officer who has not yet had this training (officers learn how to attend investigatory meetings).
- You have already had grievance officer training and would like a refresher.
- You have lots of experience with the grievance process and are willing to share your knowledge and experience with those new to the role.
- You have an interest in advocating for your colleagues in investigations and would like to learn more.
Your colleagues need your advocacy and support!
RNs from various Tacoma-area facilities will be attending and space is limited. You must pre-register for this training.
Register today with WSNA Nurse Rep Sydne James at SJames@wsna.org. Include your name, contact info and where you work.
Please be on time!
Feb. 7, noon-2 p.m.
Nurse Rep Sydne James will be in the cafeteria to hear your concerns and ideas. It’s not too soon to start thinking about contract negotiations.
Questions? Email SJames@wsna.org.
How do you want to see break relief addressed in your unit? How to eliminate the buddy system? WSNA attorneys need your input on how to implement these changes.
January 17 Union meeting
Room CR-MMC 6
6th Floor Commencement elevator
Pick a time below:
Questions? Contact any WSNA officer or WSNA Nurse Representative Sydne James at SJames@wsna.org or 206-575-7979, ext. 3004.
Introducing the new WSNA nurse representative, Sydne James, BSN, RN
I have been an RN since 2008. My background is in Step Down, outpatient dialysis and hospice and palliative care. I started at WSNA as a nurse organizer and love being an advocate for nurses. I am excited to represent the nurses at Tacoma General and look forward to hearing from each and every one of you as to what your work issues are and your ideas of how things could be better. I am also excited to speak to nurses who are interested in learning more about WSNA at Tacoma General and who may want to get involved. There are many ways to participate and contribute and grow the nurses’ power at Tacoma General. This is how nurses will get the best contract in 2020.
Contact info: 206-575-7979, ext. 3004 and email@example.com.
Find me in the hospital cafeteria the first Thursday of every month from noon-2 p.m. It’s a great opportunity for me to hear from you on issues and concerns.
Some union history
Nurses at Tacoma General Hospital formed a union and got their first contract nearly 60 years ago. They wanted to have a voice in things related to their wages, hours and working conditions. They wanted shift differential and overtime pay. They wanted a guarantee of vacation time and sick leave. They wanted a just cause provision for discipline.
Since that contract was signed in 1959, nurses have gained a lot more benefits and we continue to make gains every time the contract is negotiated. Those gains are not gifts from the employer. They are hard fought and only achieved by the majority of members standing together and showing unwavering support for the nurse negotiation team. If you wonder why the contract isn’t better, why the nurses don’t get all the proposals they ask for, ask yourself what you have done to help. The nurse negotiation team is only as strong as the union membership at TG. A strong union is an active union.
Get involved with WSNA at Tacoma General
We have vacancies in the union leadership at Tacoma General. If you are interested or know of someone who might be, nominate yourself or them by contacting any current officer. To be an officer, you must be a member in good standing. Training is provided for all positions.
Treasurer – Duties of the treasurer include unit rep responsibilities, participating in contract negotiations and attending monthly conference committee meetings with management.
Grievance officer (multiple) – The grievance officer is trained as a liaison between the union nurses and WSNA to advise and assist in WSNA’s dealing with the employer concerning contract issues and grievances.
There are other ways to get involved besides filling a union leadership position. We are seeking multiple unit representatives for most units, membership officers (training provided), volunteers to manage a TG RN Facebook group, volunteers to help write newsletters, etc. For more information on union activism, please contact WSNA Nurse Representative Sydne James.
Why be active in WSNA? WSNA at Tacoma General is a grassroots union led by members. The nurses negotiate our own contracts and we are empowered to be leaders, serve on committees and participate in labor-management problem solving.
We would not have a contract if we did not have a union. Our union contract empowers us to act on important issues like safe staffing, ending mandatory overtime, addressing safety issues and receiving appropriate training.
What’s at stake is our patients’ quality of care, as well as our pay and our working conditions. Our patients will never say to us, “Nurse, I need you to be an active member of your union so that I get the care I deserve.” But it is the strength of our union that affects our patients’ care and their future.
If you are not yet a member, join today at wsna.org/membership.
Upcoming union meeting
WSNA officers at Tacoma General are scheduling monthly meetings so they can regularly hear from the nurses as to what’s happening and keep the nurses up to date. Our next meeting is Thursday, Jan. 17. There are three time options to fit your schedule: 4-5 p.m., 6-7 p.m. and 7:30-8:30 p.m. Meeting location to be determined and will be announced when we have secured a location.
Rest break lawsuit update
It’s been nearly three years since Arbitrator Douglas Hammond ordered Tacoma General to stop using the break buddy system to provide rest breaks and to begin using break relief nurses. For the past three years, MultiCare has defied that order – which both TG and WSNA had agreed in advance would be final and binding – and instead launched a costly, lengthy and futile court battle.
In July, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected MultiCare’s attempt to invalidate the arbitrator’s decision. Last month, the federal district court issued an order confirming and enforcing the arbitrator’s decision.
WSNA sent Bill Robertson a letter demanding that MultiCare immediately comply with the arbitrator’s decision by ceasing the use of the break buddy system to provide rest breaks. The arbitrator’s award requires TG not to violate the established nurse staffing ratios in providing break relief to registered nurses, and to staff, schedule and assign break relief nurses to provide rest breaks throughout the hospital. To date, TG has not complied. If MultiCare continues to defy the court’s order, it risks contempt of court.
WSNA is moving forward with a grievance challenging TG’s refusal to comply with the arbitrator’s order, seeking back pay for nurses who have not gotten rest breaks as required by the arbitrator and attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in the litigation.
What’s happening in your unit? Have you been getting your rest breaks regularly? Are break relief nurses assigned to your unit?
Please let me know to make sure TG is in compliance. Contact WSNA Nurse Representative Sydne James at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 206-575-7979, ext. 3004.
Contract spotlight on floating
By Liz Leske
Floating is usually not a voluntary choice! However, per our contract (article 6.2) it is a necessary evil; everyone must float. There are no exceptions for seniority, Charge RNs or manager’s choice. All RNs within a clinical service area (article 5.12) are required to float to the other units in that service area. In the Peri-anesthesia services area where I work, we have 3 units in our clinical service area – SASS, PACU and Baker Day Surgery Center.
Each unit has some job duties which are the same and others which are unique to their area. However, the majority of the RNs in the three departments are trained to do all (or most) of the jobs in each area. We do have some RNs who do admitting only; others are trained in PACU only. That doesn’t exempt them from floating. We just don’t float them to areas in which they have no experience. Thus, a nurse who works at SASS and does only admits would not go to PACU. But she would be expected to float to the Baker Center Admitting area if need be.
How do we decide who floats and when? We keep a calendar on the computer which is accessible to all. When an RN floats, s/he is responsible for marking that float date on the calendar. Years ago, the least senior RN on each unit floated first. Since then, each unit has been floating RNs in rotation. (According to the contract, the equitable floating rotation is least senior to most senior. When a unit gets through the entire list in turn, they would start again with least senior nurse to most senior.)
In the Peri-anesthesia services we always take volunteers first. Occasionally someone does want to float and we let them! If there are no volunteers, agency/on-call RNs are floated (provided they have the experience. We can’t float a PACU nurse to the Surgical Admit unit if she doesn’t know what to do. That would be silly).
If there are no volunteers, and no on-call/agency RNs, then we refer to the calendar. The RN who is working that day and hasn’t floated for the longest amount of days previous is the one who must go.
We also take into account skills and ability. At the Day Surgery Center we see relatively healthy patients having minor surgical procedures. If one of the RNs from Baker floats to the main PACU, she is not expected to recover a patient who has had a thoracotomy (for example). Patients are assigned to the floating nurse commensurate with her skill and competence.
So even though most of us don’t like to float, we know it is not optional. And because we float our RNs in an equitable rotation, we don’t have arguments or rancor. And we usually appreciate our own units more after spending a shift “away from home!”
A closer look at nursing committees
Our Collective Bargaining Agreement, or CBA, allows for multiple nursing committees comprised of an equal number of union nurses and nursing administration. The purpose of the committees is to discuss matters relating to nursing care, patient care, nursing practice, safety and staffing issues and standards, in-service education and benefits. Attendance at these meetings is paid at the regular rate of pay, up to 24 hours per year, depending on FTE.
We are looking for more members to sit on our nurse committees: Conference Committee, Patient Care Committee, Safety Committee, Nurse Staffing Committee, Labor/Management Benefits Committee.
If you are interested in sitting on one or more committees or would like more information, please contact WSNA Nurse Representative Sydne James.
When does a problem become a grievance? Problems are grievances when they relate to a provision of the collective bargaining agreement (contract). A formal grievance filed by WSNA on behalf of a nurse must refer to the article(s) or section(s) of the contract that has been violated.
WSNA will always work with the employer to settle problems or contract violations at the lowest level. This often means we can avoid filing a grievance. Sometimes this is not possible and so the association files a grievance on behalf of the affected nurse(s). Currently, we have several open grievances. A few of them are:
- The staffing standard in the Emergency Department is routinely exceeded.
- Not paying shift differential for evening shift for 10-hour nurses.
- A nurse was denied a posted position because she was out on approved leave when she applied.
- A nurse was denied immediate access to EIT for scheduled outpatient surgery.
- A nurse was denied preceptor premium pay under article 5.4 (c and f).
A nurse who terminated employment during her residency was denied payout of PTO/EIT.
Upcoming WSNA events
Mark your calendars for upcoming WSNA events that may interest you. Find out more about all these events (including how to register), click on the Calendar tab in the top menu banner.
Jan. 28, 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. is Advocacy Camp. The goal of WSNA’s 2019 Advocacy Camp is to educate nurses, nursing faculty and nursing students about the legislative process and about how to effectively advocate for nurses and patients when meeting with legislators. This year’s event will take place at the Red Lion Hotel in Tumwater.
Feb. 28, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. is Nurse Lobby Day. The goal of WSNA’s Lobby Day is to advance our legislative priorities that support nurses and patient safety. This event will include a morning briefing session to help participants get up-to-speed on key issues before the legislature. Time will also be spent role-playing to prepare for afternoon appointments with your legislators. After lunch, you will head up to the hill to attend meetings with your legislators. This is a great opportunity for nurses to talk with their lawmakers about key issues, such as the need for uninterrupted rest breaks, as well as funding for school nurses, nursing education faculty and public health.
May 1-3 is the Washington State Nurses Convention. This bi-annual convention is at Tulalip Casino. You have the opportunity to earn 24 CNE credits and members may get registration and hotel fees covered with local unit funds. If you are interested in taking advantage of this, contact any WSNA officer at Tacoma General as funds are limited.
Keep abreast of what’s happening with your union at Tacoma General by keeping up with this page.
It’s been nearly three years since Arbitrator Douglas Hammond ordered Tacoma General to stop using the break buddy system to provide rest breaks, and to begin using break relief nurses. For the past three years, MultiCare has defied that order – which both TG and WSNA had agreed in advance would be final and binding – and instead launched a costly, lengthy and futile court battle.
In July, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected MultiCare’s attempt to invalidate the arbitrator’s decision. On Monday, the federal district court issued an order confirming and enforcing the arbitrator’s decision.
On Nov. 7, 2018, WSNA sent Bill Robertson a letter demanding that MultiCare immediately comply with the arbitrator’s decision by ceasing the use of the break buddy system to provide rest breaks. The arbitrator’s award requires TG not to violate the established nurse staffing ratios in providing break relief to registered nurses, and to staff, schedule and assign break relief nurses to provide rest breaks throughout the hospital. To date, TG has not complied. If MultiCare continues to defy the court’s order, it risks contempt of court.
WSNA is moving forward with a grievance challenging TG’s refusal to comply with the arbitrator’s order, seeking back pay for nurses who have not gotten rest breaks as required by the arbitrator, and attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in the litigation.
What’s happening in your unit? Have you been getting your rest breaks regularly? Are break relief nurses assigned to your unit?
Contact WSNA Nurse Representative Sydne James at email@example.com or at 206-575-7979, ext. 3004.
Please welcome WSNA Nurse Representative Sydne James, BSN, RN. Beginning Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, Sydne will be taking over all new issues as they arise at Tacoma General. I will be assisting Sydne with this transition in the coming months as needed.
Sydne can be reached at SJames@wsna.org or 206-575-7979, ext. 3004.
It has been a pleasure working with all of the Tacoma General RNs over the past three years. I am continuing my work here at WSNA as a nurse representative with new assignments. I will miss the Tacoma General nurses but know you will be in good hands with Sydne.
All my best to you,
Sara Frey, JD, BSN, RN
WSNA Nurse Representative
We invite you to attend a WSNA power-up Q&A on Wednesday, Dec. 5 in CR-MMC 6 on 6 Commencement.
Join the WSNA officers at one of two sessions:
8-9 a.m. or 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Negotiations will be here before we know it and we want to hear what issues you are dealing with and what ideas you have to make things better. In addition, it’s a chance to meet our new WSNA Nurse Representative, Sydne James.
Make sure to RSVP below!
Questions? Contact WSNA Nurse Rep Sydne James at 206-575-7979, ext. 3004 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As previously announced, WSNA won an important victory this summer when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected MultiCare’s attempt to undo a rest break arbitration award directing it to give up the buddy system and to instead start using break relief nurses.
MultiCare’s only choice now is to try to appeal to the United States Supreme Court – a strategy that seems extremely unlikely to be successful given that the Court only agrees to even consider about 0.1% of cases appealed to it. But MultiCare says that it is “seriously considering” doing just that.
Worse, MultiCare is asking the trial court judge to issue a “stay” in the case while it decides whether to seek review from the Supreme Court. This would mean that MultiCare would be excused from complying with the Ninth Circuit’s order and the arbitration award while it considers its options. If the stay were granted, MultiCare could continue using the failed break buddy system, and continue refusing to use break relief nurses as it has now been ordered to do both by the Arbitrator and the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Shockingly, MultiCare wrote that the impact of further delay would be “minimal” because “nurses continue to be financially compensated by TGH for any missed rest breaks.” Apparently, MultiCare still doesn’t understand that it’s not just about the money – nurses want patient safety and to be able to take their breaks!
While disappointing, MultiCare’s latest move is not surprising given that it has now spent over five years evading and fighting the promises it made in the 2013 rest break settlement agreement, which was designed to ensure that nurses could actually take their rest breaks. Imagine how different things might be had MultiCare instead used that time and money to actually provide its nurses with relief for rest breaks.
If you have any questions, please contact WSNA Nurse Representative Sara Frey, JD, BSN, RN at email@example.com or at 206.575.7979, ext. 3039.
On Aug. 13, 2018, your representatives on the Nurse Staffing Committee presented a letter to MultiCare making clear that the nurses on the Staffing Committee and WSNA expect MultiCare to comply with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ Order by ceasing all use of the break buddy system and beginning to use break relief nurses in every department of the hospital. If MultiCare continues to ignore the Court’s order, it risks being found in contempt of court. The letter was sent on the same day the parties met for Staffing Committee.
It’s been almost three years since an Arbitrator ordered TG to stop using the break buddy system and to begin using break relief nurses. For the past three years, TG has ignored that order and instead waged a costly and lengthy battle in court trying to undo the Arbitrator’s Award.
You can read a copy of the letter WSNA sent to MultiCare demanding compliance and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision.
What's happening in your unit? Have you been getting your rest breaks since the Court's decision was released. Take our survey and let us know.
It’s been two weeks since the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in favor of WSNA and its arbitration award prohibiting the so-called “break buddy” system and requiring the use of break relief nurses. You might be wondering what happens next. While the Court of Appeals decision is a huge victory, the fight is not quite over yet.
By next week, the Court of Appeals will issue its “mandate,” which officially transfers the case back to the District Court. The District Court will then issue a final order enforcing the arbitration award. At that point, MultiCare will be subject to a final court order and will risk contempt if it does not begin finally complying with the Arbitrator’s decision.
The wheels of justice turn slowly, but we are so close to the culmination of this long, hard fought battle for safe break relief. If MultiCare were to act sensibly rather than choosing to continue to battle in court, it would use this time before the final order is issued to make the plans it needs to make to begin scheduling, staffing and assigning a break relief nurse for every unit in the hospital, like the Arbitrator ordered it to do back in 2015.
What’s happening in your unit? Have you been getting your rest breaks since the Court’s decision was released? Let us know! Be a part of making uninterrupted rest breaks a reality across the state and complete our Rest Breaks & Overtime Survey.
Your responses will help us hold employers accountable and advocate in Olympia for stronger rest break and mandatory overtime laws.
Thank you for taking the time to help us advocate together!
After years of battling in the courts over MultiCare’s unsafe use of “break buddies” to cover for nurse rest breaks, the Washington State Nurses Association, together with our members at Tacoma General Hospital, won a big victory on July 23, 2018.
The United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order rejecting MultiCare’s attempt to overturn an arbitration award which directed Tacoma General to stop using the break buddy system and to instead start using break relief nurses on every unit in the Hospital.
The decision means that, unless MultiCare tries to appeal, the arbitrator’s 2015 award will be “confirmed,” allowing WSNA to ensure that the arbitrator’s award is finally implemented.
After hearing five days of powerful testimony from nurses about their inability to safely take breaks, an Arbitrator in 2015 ordered TG to stop using the break buddy system. The Arbitrator found that MultiCare was violating a settlement agreement with WSNA by using the buddy system and failing to provide nurses with adequate relief for breaks. The settlement agreement resolved WSNA’s lawsuit against MultiCare for its failure to provide rest breaks, and involved a promise by MultiCare to adopt policies, practices or mechanisms to ensure nurses were relieved for breaks in a way that would not result in a violation of the staffing plan. Of course, the buddy system necessarily results in a violation of the staffing plan each and every time it is used. That’s why the arbitrator ordered MultiCare to stop using the buddy system and to instead use break relief nurses.
MultiCare went to court claiming that the arbitrator exceeded his authority when he ordered Tacoma General to cease using the break buddy system; MultiCare claimed that it had never agreed to give up the buddy system when it settled a rest break lawsuit with WSNA in 2013.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. The Court acknowledged that MultiCare wanted to be able to continue using the buddy system but that WSNA would not agree to allow it to do so. The Court also concluded that, according to the arbitrator, the buddy system was “unable to meet [the conditions in the Settlement Agreement] and was ‘nonviable.’” In fact, the Court observed that “the buddy system violated the very purpose” of the settlement agreement.
You all, the nurses at TG, are simply amazing. You chose to stick together to advocate for better care and working environment policies. You stayed the course. You remained professional. You stood united in your union. WSNA is proud to partner with you in this huge win for nurses statewide. Can you imagine what we can do moving forward?
To move on to the next challenge we all know we’ll face, we need to be organized. To do that, you need to find your own place in your union. Everyone has a place at WSNA. Whether you just have time to post a bulletin board occasionally, talk to your colleagues about a hot issue or take it to the next level and run for office. If you would like to be part of this amazing group of nurses and the work they are doing, contact your officers or nurse rep and let’s get it done.
With some recent role changes in your officer core, we are in need of additional grievance officers. Please consider joining your current officers in representing your peers in this important role.
WSNA grievance officer training
This event is for you if you have an interest in advocating for your colleagues in investigations/grievances by becoming a grievance officer.
When: Monday, May 7, 5:45 p.m.
Where: Roundtable Pizza in Burien
15730 1st Ave S
Burien, WA 98148
Burien is easily accessible from Hwy 518 off of 405 if coming from the east, via Hwy 99 and 509 if coming from the north, and from Hwy 518 if coming from I-5.
Can’t make this meeting? No problem. We still want to hear from you and can make other arrangements for training or to chat about further questions you may have.
Your colleagues need your advocacy and support!
There will be RNs from various facilities attending. We will be providing dinner and you can be reimbursed for your mileage from local unit funds if you wish.
Please RSVP today to firstname.lastname@example.org or 206.575.7979, ext. 3039.
Our nursing Code of Ethics calls upon nurses to promote and advocate for the protection of health, safety and right of our patients.
This means advocacy at the bedside for the individual patient as well as advocacy in Olympia and Washington, D.C., for public policy that promote safe and quality care.
Uninterrupted meal and rest breaks and limiting mandatory overtime means you can provide the highest quality patient care.
In addition to working to ensure that MultiCare provides real rest breaks to our nurses at Tacoma General and Good Samaritan Hospital, WSNA is also advocating for #breaks4nurses legislation in Olympia (House Bill 1715).
WSNA is aware that MultiCare and Bill Robertson released a letter to employees on Jan. 16, 2018 titled, “MultiCare Government Relations and Professional Advocacy.” In this letter, Mr. Robertson stated that prior to contacting legislators, employees must, “coordinate any potential contacts with elected official directly with Ingrid Mungia, Director of Government Relations for MultiCare Health System.” In addition, the letter instructs nurses to “inform Ingrid anytime one of these groups asks you to make contact with policymakers.”
Direct communication with your elected officials is considered by the Supreme Court to be protected concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act.
Let us be clear:
- Nurses have the right to appeal to lawmakers and to advocate on specific issues/legislation such as our rest breaks bill.
- Employers cannot require nurses to notify employers or coordinate response when contacting legislators.
- Employers cannot prohibit or discriminate against nurses for advocating on issues and appealing to lawmakers.
- Nurses cannot be required to divulge their union activities and communication to an employer.
Please contact WSNA immediately should you face any investigation or retaliation related to your protected activities.
Latest update on #breaks4nurses legislation: House passed HB 1715 which would guarantee uninterrupted meal and rest breaks, and close the mandatory overtime loophole. The bill passed 56 – 42 with bipartisan support.
It’s not too late, join us in Olympia on Monday, Jan. 22, for Nurse Legislative Day and meet with your lawmakers face-to-face!
Sara Frey, JD, BSN, RN
Tacoma General Nurse Rep
(206) 575-7979, ext. 3039