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Harrison Medical Center workers vote to authorize strike

harrison-mc-solidarity-ufcw21BREMERTON (June 12, 2014) — Professional and technical workers at Harrison Medical Center (HMC) on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to reject the hospital’s latest contract offer and to authorize a one-day strike if their union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, can’t reach a new agreement. The contract rejection and strike authorization was approved by 88 percent of the members who voted.

“Our hope is that Management will come back to mediation on June 17 and 18 with proposals that address our concerns,” UFCW Local 21 wrote in a message to members following the vote. “We need a three year contract like we’ve had for decades. We need to protect our union health care plan, retain our grievance procedure and get back to caring for our patients.”

On March 27, the HMC workers rejected a similar offer by an 81 percent majority. In an opinion column published in The Stand, Mike Caldwell, an HMC cardiovascular tech for 21 years, explained that management trying to shorten the contract and set the stage for taking away the employees’ affordable health coverage:

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.

Under federal law, the HMC workers have the right to strike, but must give the hospital at least 10 days notice.

“Because patient care is always our top priority, this allows enough notice for patient care to continue,” the union wrote. “A strike is a last resort, now it is up to management to come back to the table with a proposal that respects us and the community.”

For more information, visit UFCW Local 21’s website.

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