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Providence workers may strike over cuts

seiu1199nw-logoThe following is from SEIU HealthCare 1199NW:

OLYMPIA (Mar. 1, 2013) — As Providence continues to resist calls from nurses, healthcare workers, and community allies to restore healthcare, members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW at Providence St. Peter Hospital and Providence SoundHomeCare and Hospice gave notice Thursday that unless Providence stops healthcare cuts and ends what the union believes are unfair labor practices, they could strike as soon as March 11.

“We love our patients and that’s why we need to stand up for access to affordable care,” said Chrystal Buchanon, a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at St. Peter Hospital.  “We don’t want to strike, but Providence’s cuts to our healthcare undermine our community standards and take money away from frontline care and the South Sound economy.  We need to hold them accountable.”

providence-seiu1199nwProvidence, a profitable 5-state healthcare giant, slashed employee healthcare on January 1, implementing catastrophic high-deductible plans.  Last Saturday, a community coalition came together to examine the impact of the cuts on the South Sound.  Business owners, elected officials, and faith leaders agree that Providence’s cuts reach far beyond its employees.

“The major healthcare provider in Thurston County is going in the wrong direction for our community,” said Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela.  “This profitable employer is increasing costs to workers who are least able to afford it. It’s not a good thing for our community to have workers choosing between their healthcare and other basic needs like groceries.”

Providence’s moves undermine our region’s work to expand affordable healthcare access and create bad public policy by slashing short-term costs at the expense of employee health resulting in higher long-term costs.  The Segal Firm, a nationally-renowned employee benefits consultant, says Providence’s catastrophic plans will cost employees 47% more in out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.  And a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study shows that, compared to employees on traditional comprehensive plans, employees with catastrophic healthcare plans use less preventative care, leading to twice as many people losing work time or contracting a long-term disability.

“These cuts to care mean less money in local pockets,” remarked local business owner Cheryl Selby.  “That hurts my bottom line, but also negatively impacts the tax revenue that I collect, the same tax revenue that goes back to our community to make it safer and provide necessary services. Providence healthcare workers take care of me and my community, and I expect Providence to take care of them.”

Members are ready at any time to return to the bargaining table.  If Providence continues to refuse to restore affordable healthcare, the 530 service workers including dietary, housekeeping, registration, health unit coordinators, sterile processors and more at St. Pete’s Hospital will be striking for 5 days starting March 11.  If Providence still won’t make a commitment to affordable care, the strike will grow with 150 RNs, social workers, licensed practical nurses, and support staff from SoundHomeCare and Hospice joining the strike for 3 days starting March 13.

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