Member news: 2018 December newsletter

Introducing the new WSNA nurse representative, Sydne James, BSN, RN

Sydne James

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 sjames@wsna.org.

Cafeteria time

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.

Membership matters

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 sjames@wsna.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.

Grievance corner

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.