WASHINGTON—Last night, after an inspiring nine-month contract campaign, the 900-member service unit at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, Wash., overwhelmingly voted—90 percent to 10 percent—to ratify their first contract. It was the third successful AFT contract campaign at PHSW—following the tech unit's contract win and the hugely successful registered nurses campaign by the Washington State Nurses Association. These three groups—collectively representing more than 2,500 new members—have been campaigning to make sure that while they care for their patients and strengthen their community, they can also earn a living wage themselves.
The service unit members voted for union voice, due process and a minimum 7 percent wage increase over the next two years, with an average increase of more than 9.5 percent. They also brought a halt to PeaceHealth's practice of siccing collection agencies on its own employees for not being able to pay high medical bills.
Certified nursing assistant Tyler Carr said, "I'm proud of what we were able to accomplish with our first union contract. By bargaining for things like a living wage and improved job security, I feel like we have really improved the lives of everyone who works here at PHSW. This will have a positive impact on not only me and my colleagues, but also everyone who comes into our hospital to receive care."
Jodi Atteberry, a monitor technician at PeaceHealth, added, “It's been an amazing learning experience to be on the bargaining committee with a great team. I'm so very excited that we now have a voice and will be able to provide awesome patient care."
AFT President Randi Weingarten said, "Delivering quality care to patients requires more than instruments and medications. You need highly skilled medical professionals, treated with dignity and respect in the workplace, who are empowered to advocate on behalf of their patients. Care gets better when professionals have a secure job with a living wage to support themselves and their families. The AFT supported the PHSW campaign from the beginning, and we couldn't be prouder of our passionate new members and organizers. This moment represents a huge step forward for both the AFT—as we continue to grow our healthcare constituency—and the PHSW, showing all healthcare professionals what is possible when you join a union."