BREMERTON (June 20, 2014) — The negotiating team for professional and technical workers at Harrison Medical Center (HMC) on Wednesday reached a tentative contract agreement with the hospital after more than a year of negotiations.
The deal comes eight days after employees overwhelmingly voted to authorize a one-day strike if their union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, couldn’t reach a new agreement. Under federal law, the HMC workers have the right to strike, but must give the hospital at least 10 days notice.
UFCW Local 21 has posted the following statement announcing the tentative agreement on the union’s website:
On June 18, after two long days of mediation our Pro Tech Bargaining Team unanimously reached a tentative agreement with Harrison hospital. Vote meetings are being scheduled for June 26 & 27 for the Pro Tech members to come and review the contract proposal, have your questions answered, and vote on the tentative agreement. Vote times and locations will be announced as soon as possible.
Details on the contract have not been released.
In recent months, the union had twice put hospital management’s offer to a vote, last week and on March 27. The HMC workers rejected those offers by strong majorities both times with a key issue being management’s attempt to shorten the contract and set the stage for taking away the employees’ affordable health coverage. Mike Caldwell, an HMC cardiovascular tech for 21 years, explained that issue in an opinion column published in The Stand:
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.
UFCW 21 is the largest private-sector union in Washington, with more than 43,000 members working in grocery store, retail, health care, and other industry jobs. Learn more at ufcw21.org.