With Edmonds mayor and councilmembers offering support, striking Swedish health care workers rally to return to their jobs,

This story has been updated with additional information from Swedish and SEIU Healthcare 1199NW.

An estimated 300 health care workers gathered at the Swedish Edmonds hospital campus Friday morning for a 7 a.m. rally marking an end to a three-day strike, during which approximately 7800 hospital employees walked off the job protesting what their union  — SEIU Healthcare 1199NW — calls unsafe, unfair and unacceptable working conditions.

Joining the workers were Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson, City Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and City Councilmember Laura Johnson.

“I’ve met with the workers and heard about conditions in the hospital, and it’s just not right,” said Nelson. “I’ve always supported our frontline workers – firefighters, police, medics, nurses. You can never do more with less, and we see this theme running through all these different fields of work. When you do this, it puts peoples’ care and safety in jeopardy.”

Fraley-Monillas added she was attending “to support the workers as they return from their three-day strike. Frankly I don’t think they’re asking too much — safe working conditions for the patients and for them. I want management to get back to the table and continue the negotiating process. Our community needs Swedish in Edmonds.”

As word of the strike spreads, “support for these workers is going beyond local,” the council president added, noting that Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden have all tweeted out their support.

To maintain operations during the strike, Swedish says it flew in “thousands” of replacement workers, many of whom were promised five-day contracts. Despite this, Swedish closed the emergency departments at Ballard and Redmond, as well as Ballard Labor and Delivery, referring patients to other facilities.

Swedish also reported that on day one of the strike “nearly 1,100 caregivers chose to come to work in support of our patients.” But according to the union, “nearly all Swedish-Providence caregivers are participating in the strike.”

In a statement issued Friday morning, Swedish spokesperson Tiffany Moss said that the hospital would “bring [striking] caregivers back as work becomes available and we are actively notifying them about reporting to work. The two-day transition – after the strike officially ends at 7:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 31 – is designed to minimize patient disruption as patient census grows and work becomes available.”

Moss added that “our position in this regard is not new, and has been communicated to SEIU since the union delivered its strike notice on Jan. 17.”

According to Swedish, 2,000 of the estimated 7,800 striking employees returned to their jobs on Friday.

In a Friday morning press release, the union calls this a “partial lockout,” maintaining that it is a violation of federal labor law.

“I tried to go back to work caring for my patients, but management told me not to come back until Sunday,” said Tyler Hartman, an emergency department tech at Swedish Edmonds. “It’s really sad and shocking, because management diverted patients away from our emergency department as they just didn’t have the qualified staff for many procedures. Hundreds of my coworkers are locked out throughout the whole hospital. Swedish-Providence would rather punish caregivers than ensure safe access to emergency care for our community, and that’s hurting our entire area.

“The permanent staff are the healthcare subject matter experts for our local demographic, and we’re also the local experts for our units. In emergency care, minutes and seconds are crucial, so I really hope Swedish-Providence lets us back as soon as possible to ensure safe, quality care,” he continued.

In a press release issued later in the day, Swedish responded with the following:

“Despite what the union says, we are not engaged in an unlawful lockout. Swedish contracted with our vendors for a five-day replacement period, which was communicated to SEIU before the union delivered its strike notice on Jan. 17. We also sent a postcard (see accompanying image) to every represented caregiver’s home stating this arrangement, sent out internal messaging in our weekly newsletter and posted the information on our intranet, all prior to the strike period.”

But for many strikers, getting back to work and getting a fair settlement remain paramount.

“Management has also said they’re going to lock us out of our jobs for two days, which feels like they’re trying to punish us financially for our patient advocacy,” said Whittney Powers, a registered nurse in the Swedish Edmonds emergency room. “This is a slap in the face, and we feel betrayed and devalued. We’re eager to get back to work caring for our patients, and to get back to negotiating a fair contract which ensures safe patient care. There’s a lot of healing and rebuilding of trust needed at Swedish-Providence after how they’ve treated the frontline staff.”

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

 

11 Replies to “With Edmonds mayor and councilmembers offering support, striking Swedish health care workers rally to return to their jobs,”

  1. The mayor is supporting his constituents in an unfair labor action against a healthcare corporation giant, Providence. Providence has cut staff, had layoffs, cut benefits while giving it’s CEO a 157% pay raise. The mayor is right where he should be and the nurses, CNAs, Respiratory Therapist, X Ray Technicians, Unit Secretaries, EVS, Maintenance workers and technicians greatly appreciate his support.

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  2. I’ve tried to keep an open mind on this but politics aside, this seems pretty straight forward.
    Swedish Providence is squeezing their SEIU workers too hard.
    When my family, friends, and maybe myself, need the services of Swedish Edmonds, I expect everyone involved in that care to be competent, caring, well compensated, working at safe and efficient staffing levels, and in a safe working environment.
    That is the reputation that Swedish Edmonds and Stevens Memorial built in the decades before now.
    This well earned reputation has been tarnished. Mistakes have been made and will likely continue. All of it points back to the business practices of Providence.
    Enough. Fix this mess.

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  3. It’s interesting how we have absolutely no problem with professional unions like the AMA and the ABA but when lower status workers, like teachers and nurses form a Union, they are a bunch of Socialistic Commies just looking for a gravy train at their ever benevolent employer’s expense.

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    1. Clinton, no, the AMA is the source of most problems in healthcare. You categorically fail to understand the conservative arguement, The AMA are commies too. Compulsory trade unions shouldnt have a monopoly on healthcare. Nurses should be promoted to doctors even, if they work hard and can demonstrate the knowledge. Unions, like the AMA, keep people down, keep the classes separated.

      https://reason.org/commentary/breaking-the-ama-monopoly/

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      1. Nursing is a completely different profession with a different skill set. Unions have nothing to do with it.

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  4. I’m all for private-sector unions using collective bargaining but I’m leery anytime a group uses public safety to drum up support. If the final contract negotiation includes a greater benefit package and not increased security measures, then we’ll know we (and our public officials) were duped.

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      1. Exactly right! Skepticism is even more important when public money is involved (as opposed to public reputations, as is the case here). That would have been a very interesting (and well scrutinized) portion of the connector’s EIS.

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