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St. Joe’s caregivers, supporters picket over wages, staffing

The following is from SEIU Healthcare 1199NW:

TACOMA (July 14, 2017) — CHI Franciscan St. Joseph Medical Center made $51 million in profit in 2016, yet is failing to invest in staffing, pay living wages, or offer real career advancement to its staff. That’s why more than 800 nursing assistants, dietary and housekeeping staff, and other employees of St. Joe’s picketed alongside community leaders on Thursday, calling for St. Joe’s to invest in Tacoma.

The caregivers have made specific proposals to management to improve wages, to improve staffing, and to invest in training and career ladders for staff.  CHI Franciscan management has refused to make significant improvements across-the-board, accepting only caregivers’ proposal to bring the lowest paid caregivers up to $15/hour but refusing fair wage increases for the rest of the staff.

“CHI is a million-dollar company with loyal employees who have been here 15, 20, or 25 years. CHI refuses to share the wealth,” said Desiree Castillo, a Care Assistant in Emergency Department Observation.  “Rent is going up and Pierce County employees are still struggling and working 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet.  We give our all.  CHI needs to give their all.”

Caregivers are also proposing that St. Joe’s join the SEIU Healthcare 1199NW Multi-Employer Training Fund, which MultiCare and CHI Franciscan Highline Medical Center, along with five other major hospitals in our state, are part of.  The fund provides access to tuition assistance, tutoring, prerequisite coursework, career counseling, and more and has a track record of success in training and advancing caregivers’ careers.

“The Training Fund is a win for the employees and a win for the employer,” said Christie Watkins, an Endoscopy Tech at St. Joe’s.  “To invest in us is a win for the community.  We are picketing to move management to invest in employees and invest in the community.”

More than a dozen community supporters, faith leaders, and elected officials joined the picket line and rally.

“There’s a disconnect where a place of healing has become a place of poverty,” said Tacoma City Council Member Ibsen.  “That’s not right.”

Caregivers have committed to continuing to take public action until they settle a contract that invests in Tacoma, its patients, and its workers. The previous contract expired on October 31, 2016.

There are 860 nursing assistants, dietary and housekeeping staff, and other service employees united in SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. SEIU Healthcare 1199NW is 29,000 nurses and healthcare workers united to improve our jobs and the care we give.

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