MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital

WSNA demands that TG comply with court order

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.

You can read the letter WSNA sent to MultiCare demanding compliance here, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision here and arbitrator Hammond’s decision here.

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 sjames@wsna.org or at 206-575-7979, ext. 3004.

Announcing changes in WSNA nurse representative

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

You're invited!

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 sjames@wsna.org.

MultiCare chooses to prolong losing court battle rather than provide much-needed break relief

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 sfrey@wsna.org or at 206.575.7979, ext. 3039.

WSNA demands Tacoma General comply with court order

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.

What's next?

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!

U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says “NO” to break buddies at MultiCare

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.

Represent your local unit!

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 sfrey@wsna.org or 206.575.7979, ext. 3039.

Advocacy: our professional duty and a protected right

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