SEATTLE — Some 8,000 workers represented by SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and other unions went on strike against the Swedish-Providence hospital system Jan. 28-30. Picket lines were set up 24 hours a day at seven facilities in the greater Seattle area.
“Safe staffing is what we’re really fighting for, so we can provide the highest quality care,” Lizette Vanunu, who started working for Swedish as a nurse in 1988, told the Intercept magazine. “The wage issue is secondary, but we do need better wages so we can keep experienced people in our institution.”
The union demanded a 23.25% raise in wages over four years while hospital bosses only offered an 11.25% increase.
Some 250 workers enthusiastically picketed outside Swedish-Providence’s largest facility Jan. 28, chanting “Safe staffing saves lives,” “Patients before profits” and “United for social justice.”
Among those marching in solidarity was Walmart worker Pat Scott, carrying a sign, “Walmart workers support hospital workers” to an enthusiastic response.
The following day over 1,000 hospital workers and supporters rallied at Westlake Park, including members of the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, International Longshore Workers Union, Firefighters and the Musicians union. Members of the SMART-TD rail workers union joined the picket line at the Swedish hospital in Edmonds.
On Jan. 31 workers marched together back to work, where hundreds were barred from returning, as the bosses said they had hired thousands of replacement workers to cover that week. Swedish-Providence said it had spent at least $11 million on the replacements.
SEIU members set up their picket line again, now carrying signs explaining they were “Locked Out.”