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900 go on strike at PeaceHealth hospital in Bellingham

After 18 months of bargaining, health care workers walk


The following is from SEIU HealthCare 1199NW:

PeaceHealth-strike-15May13BELLINGHAM (May 13, 2015) — PeaceHealth made $50 million in profit in 2015, yet it is still refusing caregivers’ calls for increased staffing and a better investment in frontline care. That’s why 900 nursing assistants, lab techs, unit secretaries, housekeeping, dietary, and other hospital service and technical workers, members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, went on an unfair labor practice strike at 6 a.m. this morning, walking the picket line for their patients and their community.

(See more pictures at the union’s Facebook page.)

“PeaceHealth talks about community, compassion, and social justice but they fail to recognize that PeaceHealth’s caregivers are not only a part of the community but an intricate part of PeaceHealth’s success,” said Don Nilsen, s Surgical Technologist in the Child Birth Center. “It’s time for PeaceHealth to invest in caregivers.”

The caregivers voted to form their union in September 2013, and have bargained more than 18 months, calling for improvements in staffing and for the corporation to invest in wages and benefits that allow Whatcom families to keep up with the increasing cost of living. Healthcare costs have gone up for the caregivers, some of whom have faced collections or garnishment for medical debt from care they received at the very hospital where they work. Coupled with stagnant wages, the families are falling behind while PeaceHealth gets ahead.

“Because I couldn’t afford to pay my family’s medical bills, even with the insurance PeaceHealth gives us as employees, I called PeaceHealth to try to work out a payment plan but was denied and they sent me to collections,” said Elena Simpson, a Senior Lab Assistant. “PeaceHealth continues to garnish my wages because we are now $15,000 in medical debt.”

The caregivers are striking for 25 hours, calling for an end to unfair labor practices and for PeaceHealth to invest in frontline care. Community leaders and elected officials will join with the striking workers to show their support at a 5 p.m. rally on Squalicum in front of the hospital. Workers will march into the hospital at 6:59 a.m. on Thursday.

SEIU Healthcare 1199NW is 26,000 nurses, healthcare workers, and mental health workers throughout Washington state united to improve our jobs and the care we give.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!