Workers and supporters protested against proposed cuts of benefits outside Providence Regional Medical Center Everett in June. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

Workers and supporters protested against proposed cuts of benefits outside Providence Regional Medical Center Everett in June. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

Providence workers authorize a strike over wages, sick leave

If one is called, the union will give the hospital 10 days notice.

EVERETT — Several hundred workers at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett voted overwhelmingly this week to authorize a strike, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 announced Wednesday.

Technicians and professionals employed by Providence hope Tuesday’s action moves along negotiations with the hospital over wages, staffing and sick leave.

“The goal is that Providence comes to the next bargaining table and offers a fair contract that aligns with what we are asking,” said Maria Goodall, a vascular ultrasound technician at the Colby Avenue campus and bargaining team member. “We hope to show Providence that is what the employees are asking for … they are so upset with the contract proposal they are willing to stand outside and fight for patient rights and employee rights.”

Contracts for technicians and professionals expired in June 2018 and March 2018, respectively. The 750 workers include physical therapists, dietitians and ultrasound, surgical and medical technicians.

All of the technicians voted to authorize the strike, according to Goodall, and only one professional voted against the move.

The votes allow the bargaining teams to call a strike. If one is called, the hospital would be given a 10-day notice.

“While we understand and value their right to strike, we are disappointed that United Food and Commercial Workers has decided to take this action,” said Casey Calamusa, a hospital spokesperson, in an email. “It remains our goal to negotiate a market-competitive pay and benefits package for our caregivers that works for both parties.”

The workers took to the streets for an informational picketing session in June.

“We aren’t asking for anything unreasonable,” Goodall said. ‘We are asking to maintain the current benefits we have.”

Goodall said the hospital wants to do away with the current sick time accrual method, which can be used for extended health leave, and replace it with a short-term disability benefit.

“We see it as something of not equal value,” Goodall said.

Providence officials say the change would improve sick leave benefits.

“This new program complements the new Washington state benefit coming in 2020 that applies to most working people in the state,” Calamusa said.

Parking is another issue. The hospital started charging patients and visitors to park at both Everett campuses this month. Plans call for extending that fee to employees early next year.

Goodall said free parking was included in the previous contract and workers don’t want to start paying.

Other Providence employees joined the Everett technicians and professionals in their strike authorization. Workers at Spokane’s Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Providence Holy Family Hospital, and Walla Walla’s Providence St. Mary’s Medical Center approved the same action recently as did nurses at Providence Centralia Hospital, according to the union.

Both groups are set to return to the negotiating table with Providence in November.

Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; egiordano@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @lizzgior.

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