After a year of negotiating without contracts, registered nurses at two hospitals in Washington state have voted to authorize strikes. Nurses at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane held their vote Oct. 24 and 25, and the nurses at Kadlec Regional Medical Center, a Providence-affiliated system in Richland voted on Oct. 29 and 30. The nurses are represented by the Washington State Nurses Association.
“We had to take this step to vote, and say we're ready [to go out on strike] if we have to, but that's not the ultimate goal,” says Stevie Lynne Krone, a nurse at Sacred Heart and a member of the local’s negotiating team.
One big issue is a Providence proposal to cut the nurses’ earned sick leave and their paid time off (PTO). The nurses object to Providence’s plan to cut their benefits even though the multistate nonprofit hospital system is collecting record profits and giving extravagant raises to executives. The nurses also want Providence to commit to safe staffing and improved working conditions that will allow them to give the very best care to patients and their families. Throughout the year, the nurses have rallied, picketed and bargained in good faith for a fair contract.
“I no longer believe I can expect a mutually respectful working relationship with senior leadership to achieve safe staffing for patients and employees,” says Sacred Heart nurse Vicky Stinson in a blog post revealing her decision to be a more active WSNA member: “Most of all, I am angry that administration appears to have no conscience about stripping away our sick time, which allows us to care for ourselves and our loved ones.”
Vanessa Douglas, a nurse at Kadlec and negotiating team member, says that voting yes “shows solidarity for what we're fighting for, against the administration that continues to take away the things we've worked so hard to keep. We don't want to lose our PTO or any of our other benefits that we currently earn.”
“Providence has come in and placed profits over people,” says Kadlec nurse Adam Halvorsen. “And we—as the nurses who belong to this community and are part of this community and call this hospital home—are not standing for this.”
Meanwhile, negotiations at both facilities will continue, but if a deal is not reached the unions’ members could go on strike.