The Stand

Solidarity Day with Harrison employees April 9 in Bremerton

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CORRECTION: Note that the time of Wednesday’s rally has been corrected. It will be 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.


harrison-mc-solidarity-ufcw21BREMERTON (April 7, 2014) — Join Harrison Medical Center employees and their union and community supporters for a Solidarity Day to stand united for a fair contract at the Bremerton hospital. It will be Wednesday, April 9 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at 4210 Wheaton Way. For more information about the event, contact Annika Dowling at 206-436-6802.

On March 27, professional and technical members of UFCW Local 21 at Harrison voted by an 81 percent majority to reject the employer’s proposal, which sets the stage for the hospital to take away the employees’ affordable health coverage. Here is an opinion column with more information by Mike Caldwell, an HMC cardiovascular tech and UFCW 21 union member, that appeared last week in the Kitsap Sun (and is crossposted here with the author’s permission):


HARRISON WORKERS SEEKING FAIR TREATMENT

caldwell-mike-HMC-UFCW21By MIKE CALDWELL

I have worked for Harrison Medical Center for 21 years. Like my co-workers, I care for my patients with respect, professionalism and attention to detail. As a UFCW 21 union member, I can say that while we have not always agreed with our employer on every detail, we have been able to resolve our differences over the years without a dispute. Unfortunately, the behavior of our employer has radically changed over the past year. And their new behavior is a threat to our jobs, our workplace and our community.

What changed in 2013?

We entered into contract negotiations almost a year ago and our contract expired last September. Since then, Harrison has moved forward with its affiliation with the Tacoma-based Franciscan Health System. Ever since, we have seen a dramatic turn for the worse. Bluntly put, they seem determined to try and take away our rights as health care workers and strengthen their hand for future negotiations. The reason seems clear enough. Harrison wants us to agree to a shorter and weaker contract that would allow them to come back in a little over a year and take away our health care plan.

Here’s how it would work. They are proposing a package that would: 1) shorten the typical three-year contract and have it expire a little over a year from now in June 2015; 2) remove our right to stand together with co-workers in the case where there might be a dispute with management; 3) radically change the way we have been able enforce our contract; and 4) no longer funding our health plan beyond mid-2015 and forcing the plan to be renegotiated.

As a worker and community member for over 20 years, I have been about trying to make things better. Unfortunately, Harrison’s behavior recently would just make things worse. As evidence, we have had to, for the first time ever, file charges against them with the National Labor Relations Board for behavior against their employees.

Having a strong union that can stand up to an employer is good for our community. Having a high-quality, low-cost health plan for the very people who provide health care in Kitsap County is a good thing. Having a contract that allows workers to resolve differences more quickly and respectfully with management is a good thing. Management is proposing to take all those good things and throw them away.

That is why we recently have been taking action to reach out to patients and the community. We held an informational picket and then we stood out on Wheaton Way to connect with commuters on a recent Friday afternoon. None of that changed the employer’s stance. So we decided to take a vote to show management how workers felt about their proposal. And on March 27, members voted by 81 percent to reject the contract proposals by Harrison.

It is my sincere belief that when workers are respected, that our workplaces improve and our patients receive better care. After all, happy providers make for happy patients. This is achieved through a balance of power between the workers and the employer. We have had a reasonable balance for 30 years. Harrison is proposing to knock that historic balance off the scales so that the Franciscans can come in here in 2015 and take away our health plan and reduce the standards in our community. That is a bad idea for me, for my co-workers, our families and our patients.

Thank you for standing with us as we continue our struggle to achieve a fair contract and respect. If our employer really wants to avoid a dispute, they should modify their proposals and treat us with respect, not try to outlaw our ability to exercise our freedom to stand together with co-workers. I sincerely hope that we can resolve our differences short of a dispute.

Short URL: https://www.thestand.org/?p=30929

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