Swedish Medical Center nurses in Seattle vote to strike, demand ‘equity and inclusion’
Over 15,000 nurses at hospitals including Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center voted to approve a strike Friday, citing “multiple unfair labor practices,” punishment from management for participating in union activity, insufficient staffing, and more.
“We want equity wages and health care benefits, and we want more than ever to do this through a racial justice lens,” Swedish Cherry Hill charge nurse Delores Prescott told KIRO Radio’s Candy, Mike and Todd Show. “We want equity and inclusion for all — that’s for patients as well as ourselves.”
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW’s collective bargaining agreement with Swedish Medical Center expired June 30. It was extended through the end of July. Bargaining has been ongoing since April. Workers picketed in August, before voting to strike on Friday.
And while Swedish qualifies the proposals it has on the table as “strong,” the hospital’s nursing staff doesn’t agree.
“At one time, Swedish was a place where it was comfortable and safe to work — the bosses seemed like they cared.” said Prescott. “We’re feeling today that patient safety, staff retention, and recruitment are not the bosses’ interests.”
The hospital had recently eliminated a team of nurses trained specifically to apply IVs to patients. Without that team, she describes a process to administer IVs that take as many as three to four tries from overworked, understaffed nurses.
A news release from the union further alleges that nurses had been terminated for union activity, and that “the best quality care is no longer Swedish-Providence’s top priority.”
“As nurses, we train to be nurses because we want to give safe care to all patients. But how can we do that when we’re not given the tools that we need?” Prescott posited.
A statement released by Swedish notes that the hospital is “disappointed” in SEIU 1199NW decision to strike, and that the move would “not only represent a step backwards in our negotiations but could prove disruptive to patients who count on us for their care.”