SEIU 1199NW Healthcare achieves unprecedented pay rises, members vote overwhelmingly to ratify contract at Providence Swedish
The following is from SEIU Healthcare 1199NW:
SEATTLE (Sept. 22, 2022) — Nurses and healthcare workers at Providence Swedish, united in SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to ratify a union contract after the union’s negotiating team reached a tentative agreement earlier this month.
The ratification vote is the culmination of a treaty opening hearing that saw union and hospital negotiating teams return to the table a year ahead of schedule with a shared commitment to pursue a collaborative approach that puts racial justice, equity and inclusion at its heart. This reopening of the contract resulted in the largest economic package workers have ever won at Providence Swedish, and a package that will encourage all workers and raise standards of healthcare.
“With such a dangerous workforce, both our union and Providence Swedish knew that fair wage increases and incentives couldn’t wait until the next contract,” said Jane Hopkins, RN, President of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. “Everyone came to the table willing to work together in good faith, to apply racial justice principles and to underscore our union leadership’s vision to promote anti-racist workplaces. Staying true to our values, we have secured a historic economic package that will both retain healthcare workers at Providence Swedish and attract new ones.”
The more than 7,000 workers used their union strength, took action in their workplaces and used the momentum created by their 2020 strike to demand wage increases of at least 21.5% or $6.50, whichever is greater , to be achieved over two years – some of the largest increases in healthcare in the region. Additionally, this year’s historic treaty builds on the language of organizational justice and inclusion won by union workers in 2020 and paves the way for an innovative negotiation process grounded in respect, equality and collaboration.
“We know we cannot achieve economic justice without racial justice, and that’s why the union team felt it was important to be the force behind change at Providence Swedish,” said Yolanda King-Lowe, Secretary and Treasurer of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. “We first looked at our role in dismantling the structural racism embedded in our society, particularly in healthcare, and we achieved fair pay rises for all workers, particularly those left behind.”
The union negotiation team was guided by a shared vision of creating an inclusive path at Providence Swedish, and for the first time both negotiation teams applied a racial justice perspective to every negotiation proposal.
“Applying a racial justice lens is an exciting new approach to negotiation that we are all keen to embrace. Our goal was to improve all professions, not just a few,” said Carol Lightle, senior nurse at Swedish Issaquah, member of the union negotiation team and ordinary vice president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. “We cannot change the past, but our actions can positively change the lives of future generations of healthcare professionals. It means a lot to me that my associates can better support their families and continue to serve our communities. When working people win, our community benefits.”
This newly ratified contract reflects an unprecedented investment in nurses through historic wage increases, market adjustments, appreciation and longevity bonuses and other provisions to help recruit and retain quality nurses and ensure safe patient care in our community. There are currently more than 1,000 vacancies in Providence’s Swedish system.
In addition to significant overall wage increases that will help ease the strain caused by the rising cost of living in the Seattle area, particularly for workers in the lowest-paid job brackets, workers gained:
- Market adjustments for nurses and other professionals including nursing assistants, respiratory therapists and emergency room technicians
- A process to ensure an accurate review of annual credit for past experience, including relevant international experience, and adjustments to pay scales
- Increases in bonuses, differentials, and performance bonuses for teachers, lead roles, night shifts, on-call duty, and extra shifts
- Appreciation and Longevity Bonuses
“It’s such a relief that after experiencing the toughest years of our careers and watching our employees leave in droves, we have received significant investments in staffing,” said David Antwi, nursing assistant in Swedish’s behavioral health department Ballard and member of the union negotiation team. “This new economic package will help us pay the bills, but will also allow Providence Swedish to hire and retain new employees and alleviate the workforce crisis we are facing. An investment in our people is an investment in patient care.”
Healthcare workers hope that the benchmark wage increases under this newly ratified treaty, and their use of a racial justice lens at the bargaining table, will serve as a blueprint for healthcare hiring and retention in future Seattle-area collective bargaining negotiations. The SEIU Healthcare 1199NW negotiation team is currently negotiating an economic reopening with UW Medicine, which includes more than 5,000 healthcare workers from Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center – Northwest and UW Neighborhood Clinics.
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW is a union of nurses and healthcare workers with over 32,000 caregivers in hospitals, clinics, psychiatric, skilled home health and hospice programs throughout Washington state and Montana. SEIU Healthcare 1199NW’s mission is to advocate for quality care and good jobs for all.