Health care workers Mechelle Cannon (left), Chiow Saechao (center) and Gina Tualla stand in protest with other staff at Harborview Medical Center, a part of UW Medicine, during a noon hour break in a demonstration asking management to do more to protect staff, patients and the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Health care workers Mechelle Cannon (left), Chiow Saechao (center) and Gina Tualla stand in protest with other staff at Harborview Medical Center, a part of UW Medicine, during a noon hour break in a demonstration asking management to do more to protect staff, patients and the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

University of Washington staff rally for better protections

Workers say the university failed to implement basic public health guidance.

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Unionized University of Washington Medicine staff and labor organizers rallied at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Thursday to call for better protections from the coronavirus and to protest planned furloughs and layoffs in the face of $500 million in losses during the pandemic.

Workers from the University of Washington campus and UW Medicine’s medical facilities participating in the demonstration accuse the university of failing to implement “basic public health guidance designed to flatten the curve, including proper notification to staff regarding exposure, the installation of sneeze guards to protect staff and the public, and the distribution of personal protective equipment,” according to the Washington Federation of State Employees.

The “unity break” demonstration happened as UW Medicine is in protracted contract negotiations with the University of Washington Housestaff Association, a union that represents resident physicians, who are pushing for better working conditions, pay and benefits, The Seattle Times reported.

The bargaining has produced tensions exacerbated by COVID-19 and the strain it has put on health care workers.

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