The Stand

Healthcare workers win big gains at St. Joseph in Tacoma

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The following is from SEIU HealthCare 1199NW:

TACOMA (March 5, 2018) — Standing together in their union, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, 860 nursing assistants, dietary and housekeeping staff, and other caregivers ratified a standard-setting new agreement with CHI Franciscan St. Joseph Medical Center management last week, voting overwhelmingly to ratify a contract that includes significant improvements in wages and benefits and a stronger voice in staffing decisions.

The workers picketed, hosted community events, visited local lawmakers, and took other actions in the workplace to build strength to win their contract.  Highlights of the contract include:

●  Regular meetings with our management and administration to voice our concerns about staffing and quality of care
●  A $15/hour minimum wage immediately
●  An immediate 4% raise and raises over the life of the contract around 15%
●  Restored employer contribution to Health Reimbursement Accounts
●  Transparency about financial assistance and protection from collections activity for medical debt we owe

The caregivers joined community members in calling on CHI Franciscan St. Joseph to stop aggressive collections activity.  In a community forum and other events, patients that include the caregivers voiced their alarm at how CHI Franciscan pursues patients who are in debt—including those who could have qualified for financial assistance.  In September 2017, Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed suit against CHI Franciscan for these practices.  Now, caregivers have some relief from collections through their new contract.

“We won contract language that was able to address employees being sent to collections and having their wages garnished,” said nursing assistant Summerlove Holcomb. “We have language holding the employer accountable, where they will have to make reasonable efforts to determine whether an individual is eligible for assistance under the hospital’s financial assistance policy before engaging in collections activity against any of us.”

The agreement is also a new standard for the caregivers’ voice and input on staffing problems at the facility.  Caregivers in key areas including housekeeping, dietary, and nursing assistants report difficulty providing the best quality of care due to lack of staff.  Now, caregivers can take their concerns directly to management.

“The new labor-management committee is a great opportunity to speak out on what we as employees go through with short staffing,” said Charney Chambers, an Equipment Tech at the hospital. “We’re looking forward to a new opportunity for finding long term solutions.”

Caregivers expressed their excitement at the improvements in jobs and care possible through the new agreement, which expires in October of 2020.

SEIU HealthCare 1199NW is more than 29,000 nurses and healthcare workers across Washington state united for quality patient care and good careers in the healthcare facilities and agencies where they work. Learn more.

Are you interested in finding out how you and your co-workers can join together and negotiate for better wages, benefits and working conditions? Contact a union organizer today!

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