The following is from SEIU HealthCare 1199NW:
BELLINGHAM (Sept. 24, 2014) — Some 300 healthcare workers and supporters gathered in front of PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center on Tuesday to call for a greater investment in frontline care. PeaceHealth, which made $40 million profit in 2013, has hiked employee healthcare costs and failed to keep wages at pace with the increasing cost of living, leaving Whatcom working families behind.
“Our work caring for our community is what makes PeaceHealth a great hospital,” said Judy Ringkvist, a Medical Technologist at PeaceHealth Labs. “But if healthcare costs keep going up and our wages continue to stagnate, many of us will have to find different work in order to support our families, and that hurts our patients.”
The caregivers, members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, picketed for four hours in the rain to share their message with patients and community members. They say that despite huge profits, the corporation is squeezing more and more money out of the hospital, neglecting patient care.
“What PeaceHealth is doing hurts me, my patients, and my community,” said Brian Wyss, an Anesthesia Tech at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center. “Our healthcare dollars need to fund healthcare, not corporate profits.”
The caregivers are fighting for a first contract with PeaceHealth that includes reasonable wage increases that help their families keep up with the cost of living plus health benefits that allow them to afford care at the hospital where they work. Caregivers point to the relationship between wages and benefits and recruitment and retention.
Community members came out in force to support the picketers, including neighbors, patients, loved ones, elected officials, and other labor unions.
The caregivers pledge to keep up the fight and have not ruled out future actions to make sure PeaceHealth puts patients before profits.