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Seattle Nurses End 3-Day Strike; Hospital Keeps Scabs on for Weekend

February 1, 2020

By Steve Wishnia and Neal Tepel

SEATTLE, Wash.—Some 7,800 nurses and caregivers at Swedish Medical Center’s seven Seattle-area facilities went on strike from Jan. 28-31 after working without a contract for almost six months. Key issues for their union, Service Employees International Union Healthcare 1199NW, include understaffing, inadequate equipment and poor security. However, management at the hospital chain said it would limit which nurses and other caregivers could come back to work when the strike ended on Friday morning, Jan. 31, because it had brought thousands of strikebreakers in from out of town and hired them on five-day contracts that run through Feb. 2. “As this is an unfair-labor-practice strike, locking out workers would be illegal, because union members made an unconditional offer to return to work after the strike at 7:30 Friday morning,” 1199NW responded in a statement Jan. 29. The hospital has offered an 11.25% pay increase over four years, retroactive to 2019, while 1199NW has proposed a 23.25% raise. Environmental-service technicians, who clean and disinfect patient rooms, make $15.55 to $26.04 an hour, the union says, not enough to afford housing in Seattle. A spokesperson for Swedish told the Seattle Times that when negotiations resume, “all bets are off the table.” Read more

February 1, 2020

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