Nurses set to strike at Spokane’s Deaconess, Valley hospitals

SPOKANE (Dec. 4, 2013 – updated at 8 a.m.) — More than 1,000 licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants, sterile processors, and dietary, housekeeping and admitting staff at Deaconess and Valley hospitals and registered nurses at Valley went on strike this morning at 6 a.m. after failed negotiations with hospital administrators on a contract agreement that addresses staffing improvements and resolves what the union considers unfair labor practices.


Striking healthcare workers and their supporters picket early Dec. 4, 2013, outside Spokane’s Valley Hospital.

Workers left the hospitals to walk the picket lines this morning in what is believed to be the largest healthcare strike ever in Spokane. The one-day strike, which SEIU Healthcare 1199NW warned last week was imminent, is scheduled to continue until 5:59 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5.

“We don’t want to strike, but we have to stand up for our patients,” said Teri Nicholson, a registered nurse at Valley Hospital with 36 years of experience between the two hospitals. “We can’t just stand by while the hospitals cut staffing.”

“When I go on my break I hand my patients over to a coworker. That means she has 13 patients. Most nurses in this setting have 4, maybe 5 patients,” said Tami O’Marro, a nurse in Family Care at Valley Hospital. “We’re out here today because it’s time for management to stop the staffing cuts.”

TAKE A STAND!  If you are in the Spokane area, you can show your solidarity by attending a community rally in support of the nurses and healthcare workers today (Wednesday) at 4 p.m. outside Valley Hospital, 12606 E. Mission Ave.  You can also join the striking workers for a rally and march Thursday at 5:30 a.m. at Valley Hospital as they return to work and the strike ends.  And feel free to stop by at any point today or tonight to support the picketing.

Community leaders, labor leaders, and elected officials joined the staff as they began a 24-hour unfair labor practice strike to stop staffing cuts at both hospitals. The nurses and healthcare workers have been raising the need to improve staffing for years. Now that they’re in contract bargaining, they’ve been raising the issue at the table, calling for improvements in staffing, more reasonable sick leave policies, and an end to sending staff home early while patients still need care.

“I’m proud to stand with our community’s front-line caregivers,” said City Council President Ben Stuckart. “They’re standing up for all of us, current and potential patients. When we go to the hospital, we all need the peace of mind of knowing there are enough staff to give us good care.”

The Executive Board of the Washington State Labor Council voted to grant strike sanction for today’s walkout.

“It shouldn’t take a strike for our hospitals to get the message that we need to staff to meet our patients’ needs,” said Mary Robinson, Central Service Tech at Deaconess.  “But we’ll do what it takes to keep our patients safe.”

SEIU Healthcare 1199NW is 24,000 nurses, healthcare employees, and mental health workers in hospitals, agencies, and clinics statewide, united to improve our jobs and the care we give. SEIU Healthcare 1199NW represents the nursing, service, and technical units at Valley Hospital, and the service and technical units at Deaconess hospital. Learn more at putpatientcarefirst.org or follow the strike action at the 1199NW Facebook page or Twitter @SEIU1199NW.

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