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Olympia rally to save nurse-tech break bill

Sen. Walsh’s comments about nurses playing cards draw national outrage


OLYMPIA (April 22, 2019) — After 10 years of seeking legislation to ensure that nurses and other frontline healthcare workers get uninterrupted meal and rest breaks, and after 10 years of opposition by hospital administrators, this labor-supported patient safety legislation is tantalizingly close to passage. But when state senators passed the House-approved SHB 1155 last week, they added dangerous amendments that exempt Critical Access Hospitals in rural parts of the state, exclude medical technicians from coverage, and limit nurse work days to eight hours.

This isn’t over. There is still time for state legislators to pass a good bill with strong break and overtime protections for all nurses/frontline healthcare workers and all patients in all communities across our state. But we need all healthcare workers and their allies in organized labor and the community to call for passage of this bill without these dangerous amendments.


1.  Attend an Emergency Rally for Patient Safety at the State Capitol in Olympia this Wednesday, April 24. Patient safety advocates have to send a loud message that ALL hospitals deserve patient safety, and ALL nursing and tech staff deserve break and mandatory overtime protections! Members of the Washington State Nurses Association, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, UFCW 21 and their supporters will rally at 9 a.m. at the Sundial, talk to legislators starting at 9:45 a.m., and then have snacks and wrap-up at noon. If you’re a healthcare worker, wear your scrubs and stethoscopes to show your pride! RSVP and get more details at the Facebook event page.

2.  Sign this petition urging to pass SHB 1155 with breaks and overtime protections for nurses and hospital techs, and to include ALL hospitals and no 8-hour shift limitation.

Supporters of SHB 1155 have sent thousands of emails to state lawmakers telling them to fix and pass legislation ensuring break and mandatory overtime protections for nursing and technical staff. But a flurry of amendments supported by hospital lobbyists designed to weaken the bill were introduced last week in the Senate.

During debate on the amendments, Sen. Maureen Walsh (R-College Place) argued that nurses at Critical Access Hospitals should be exempted because they “probably play cards for a considerable part of the day.”


Walsh’s dismissive remarks went viral on social media, generated national media coverage, and have led to another petition at demanding that Walsh shadow a nurse on a 12-hour shift has collected more than half a million signatures.

The WSNA, which subsequently had so many outraged commenters on its website that it temporarily crashed, writes:

Ignoring for a moment the incredibly disrespectful and patronizing nature of Sen. Walsh’s remarks, it’s evident that she misunderstands the purpose and function of the bill. Mandatory overtime isn’t just an abhorrent employer practice: it’s also a terrible patient care practice.

Study after study show that unplanned overtime assignments have a high potential to be unsafe. Working more than 10 hours in a given day, when unplanned, results in lower quality of care, higher RN burnout, decreased patient satisfaction, and increased errors.

That’s why, ultimately, there is zero logic behind an amendment to the rest breaks bill that would cover nurses and patients in some hospitals, while leaving others without any protections. There’s a reason it’s so hard to recruit nurses to rural facilities – exempting them from laws requiring uninterrupted breaks and subjecting them to mandatory overtime would just make it worse.

When contacted by a reporter, Sen. Walsh said she regrets her comments about nurses playing cards, but says she still opposes the bill.

“I was tired,” she said. “I said something I wish I hadn’t.”

That is the whole point of SHB 1155! When nurses and frontline healthcare workers are denied uninterrupted rest breaks, they are far more likely to make mistakes. The difference is… their mistakes can have grave consequences.

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!