MONROE — Dozens of workers, union staff and supporters gathered outside a Monroe hospital Wednesday afternoon to draw attention to stalled contract negotiations between about 170 health care workers and their employer, EvergreenHealth.
Nurse Laura Steere lives in Stanwood, works on call and serves as a member of the bargaining committee.
“My biggest priority is the health care takeaway, where Evergreen wants the employees to be paying even more towards their coverage for themselves and their dependents,” Steere said. “For the staff members that aren’t nurses, the raises that are offered to them will be negated by the cost of health care.”
The nurses, as well as service and technical workers who belong to Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare 1199NW, said after nine months of bargaining, they are stuck on two key issues: health care benefits and “successorship” language. Successorship would spell out what happens to their contract and seniority if another corporation completely takes over the public hospital. Workers are concerned that their wages and benefits could change for the worse, and they could get stuck at the bottom of seniority, forced to work different shifts, for example.
EvergreenHealth in Kirkland created an “alliance” with Valley General Hospital, now known as EvergreenHealth Monroe, in 2014. Both are public hospital districts: They collect revenue from property taxes and have elected boards of commissioners. Workers are hearing EvergreenHealth Kirkland will fully absorb the Monroe operations, changing corporate structure and putting their current contract at risk.
Stacey Riden, director of human resources at EvergreenHealth Monroe, released the following statement to The Daily Herald Wednesday evening:
“We are currently in the process of collective bargaining with SEIU. To date, we have met at the table for a total of 15 sessions and await SEIU’s response to our proposed dates for our next session. We continue to participate in good faith collective bargaining, and remain optimistic that we will have collaborative conversations at the bargaining table, while moving to an agreement that both parties can be proud of.”
The bargaining committee and management last met Monday evening. Afterward, workers decided to move forward with the informational picket.
Jane Hopkins, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW’s president, said to the crowd: “If management is saying that they care about you, and they appreciated you over the years that you’ve stayed faithful to them — during a pandemic where you came to work and put your lives at risk every day — the least they can do is give you good health care. That is the minimum.”
State Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, stopped by, as did Rep. Brandy Donaghy, D-Mill Creek. Donaghy, whose mother is a nurse, said she showed up because health care workers are so important to the community.
“For decades, people who work in health care have been fighting for what they need in order to be able to do their jobs and also have their families thrive,” she said. “So I’ll always stand up to support them.”
Joy Borkholder: 425-339-3430; email@example.com; Twitter: @jlbinvestigates.
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