Mary Hurt, a financial counselor at Swedish Edmonds, leads chants as she and fellow union members gather outside the hospital’s main entrance on Friday. (Joey Thompson / The Herald)

Mary Hurt, a financial counselor at Swedish Edmonds, leads chants as she and fellow union members gather outside the hospital’s main entrance on Friday. (Joey Thompson / The Herald)

Strike at Swedish is over, but contract dispute is not

The health care provider says replaced strikers will return to work by Sunday. The union calls it a lockout.

EDMONDS — The three-day strike at every location of health-care provider Swedish is over, but some nurses and other workers are still rallying outside the hospitals.

When the walkout ended at 7:30 a.m. Friday, union members at Swedish Edmonds marched to the hospital’s main entrance, where security barred them from entering.

Swedish set up a check-in station at another area of the campus where employees could find out if they were allowed to work. Those who were scheduled to come back started their shifts. Employees who were turned away filed affidavits with the union local, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, claiming Swedish violated labor laws by locking them out.

Nearly 8,000 nurses and caregivers were qualified to participate in the strike. Swedish says more than 1,000 employees crossed the picket line to work their scheduled shifts.

Of those who walked out, 1,600 are back at work.

Elizabeth Wako, chief medical officer at Swedish First Hill in Seattle, called it a rolling transition from replacement workers to regular employees that will end Sunday morning.

The contract for fill-in employees was for five days, and they are costing the health care provider more than $11 million. Swedish wants to be fiscally responsible, Wako said during a Thursday news conference.

“Despite what the union says, we are not engaged in an unlawful lockout,” spokesperson Tiffany Moss said in a news release Friday.

Swedish started telling employees about the phase-in plan before organizers delivered strike notices on Jan. 17, she said.

“This is a slap in the face, and we feel betrayed and devalued,” Whittney Powers, a registered nurse in the Edmonds emergency room, said in a union news release. “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.”

The two sides have been negotiating for nine months.

In its last offer, Swedish proposed 11.25% raises over four years, new child and elder care benefits, and no changes for paid time off.

Union organizers said the deal didn’t do enough to boost staffing levels.

Now, that offer is off the table. With the strike, Swedish withdrew it.

When the strike started Tuesday, hundreds of nurses and caregivers carried signs at every Swedish campus while chanting their demands for increased staffing.

Throughout the week, politicians from Snohomish and King counties joined picketing nurses and health care employees.

In Edmonds, Mayor Mike Nelson, council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas and council member Laura Johnson addressed the health care workers gathered outside the hospital Friday morning.

Before he was elected mayor, Nelson led the SEIU’s legislative and political efforts for the state. He called the working conditions at the Edmonds hospital “just plain wrong.”

Fraley-Monillas said she’s heard “horror stories” about staffing cuts and high caseloads from nurses who work at the Edmonds hospital.

Both Nelson and Fraley-Monillas said they hope the strike brings both sides back to the bargaining table.

“Letting them in the building is the first step,” Fraley-Monillas said. “They’re ready to get back to work.”

Johnson brought her son to the strike event.

“As a mom, I’ve been in the emergency room a number of times with kids. I know first hand how important quality care is,” Johnson said. “I’m here to stand behind them.”

In Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine joined the striking health care workers at Swedish First Hill.

At a rally Wednesday night in Seattle, union organizers relayed messages from Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.

Contract negotiations between SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and Swedish started in April.

Union organizers say the standard of care started to decline when Providence Health & Services acquired Swedish in 2012.

In November, union-represented nurses and caregivers authorized strikes at each campus. They joined 5,000 other Providence-affiliated employees statewide who also approved walkouts, including 650 technical and professional workers at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and two health care unions threatened to file strike notices in early January, but an all-nighter with a federal mediator kept both sides at the bargaining table.

Within a week, the two other unions reached tentative deals for their members.

Negotiations will continue after the strike, but no talks have been scheduled, both sides said.

This article was updated to reflect the 11.25% raises offered by Swedish were spread over four years, not two.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Work on the light rail trackway will require over two weeks of overnight closures of 236th Street SW near I-5 in Mountlake Terrace. (Sound Transit)
Overnight closures set for 236th Street in Mountlake Terrace

The closure just east of I-5 means a detour for drivers to reach the interstate until Oct. 14.

Marysville man shot in hand during apparent drug robbery

At least two suspects were being sought, and police are seeking surveillance video.

Zach Graham stands in front of a newly restored Three Fingers Lookout. (Friends of Three Fingers Lookout)
Volunteers give makeover to precarious Three Fingers Lookout

Up high, with cliffs on all sides, the 90-year-old hut got much-needed new windows, shutters and paint.

The city of Everett is pursuing changing its municipal code's language to replace gender-specific pronouns with gender neutral words. Instead of his/her the code would use the specific position or title, such as police officer or public works director. (City of Everett)
Everett considers gender-neutral terms for municipal code

References to “he” or “she” could change to title-specific words such as “firefighter” or “police officer.”

Michealob Johnson (left), 25, is accused of killing Jae An at the Food Mart in the 6900 block of Broadway in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Trial begins for man who admitted killing a mini-mart clerk

Michealob Johnson is accused of aggravated first-degree murder in the 2019 stabbing death in Everett.

Driver who died in Everett car crash identified

Thomas Ogden, 43, was driving Tuesday morning on Rucker Avenue at 41st Street when another car crashed into his.

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff (center) takes a ride on light rail from the Angle Lake Station in Seatac with King County Executive Dow Constantine (left) on Sept. 21, 2016. (Ian Terry / Herald file)
CEO of fast-growing Sound Transit system to step aside

The search will begin soon to replace Peter Rogoff, who leads the multibillion-dollar transportation network.

The site of a new development along May Creek Road next to the entrance of Wallace Falls State Park on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021 in Gold Bar, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Gold Bar considers home parking permits near Wallace Falls

In the past, parking spilled from Wallace Falls State Park into town. Decals could avoid conflicts.

Bothell clinic helps kids exposed to drugs and alcohol

One in every 10 kids in the U.S. had prenatal exposure. The consequences are numerous.

Most Read