Union delivers notice of intention to picket hospitals on April 23 - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Union delivers notice of intention to picket hospitals on April 23

SPOKANE, Wash. - Nurses and caregivers at Valley Hospital & Medical Center and Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane Monday delivered notice of their intention to picket the hospitals. 

The picket, scheduled for Thursday, April 23, is intended to alert the community that Community Health Systems (CHS) has broken promises it made when it purchased the two hospitals last fall, and is refusing to engage in good faith negotiations with the union.

CHS acquired the two hospitals in 2008, and promised the community it would maintain wages and benefits and revitalize the two struggling hospitals. Union members and the hospitals, owned by Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, have been negotiating a new contract for 6 months.

 "CHS came to bargaining with proposals to slash our benefits and reduce our pay," said Teri Nicholson, RN at Valley Hospital and Medical Center. "After all the promises we had heard, we were just shocked. CHS is a very profitable company. We don't have much choice but to picket and let our community know what's happening."

"Even in this economy, there is a serious shortage of skilled healthcare workers, from nurses to radiology techs. We lose staff all the time to other hospitals and healthcare providers, and that makes it harder to continue our delivery of the highest quality patient care," said Sharon Kile, radiology/mammography tech at Deaconess. "CHS promised our community that they would address this, but so far instead of working with us to resolve these problems, they've been trying to break our union."

Nurses, techs, and service workers from the two hospitals will participate in informational picketing outside the hospitals during their non-working hours on April 23. More than 40 employees hand delivered the notices to the CEOs of each hospital.

The union also filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board on March 16, asserting that Community Health Systems is refusing to engage in good faith negotiations, withholding information about health and retirement benefits, and is engaging illegally in anti-union activity.

Statement from Deaconess and Valley Hospital and Medical Center

Providing high-quality patient care has always been our most important priority at Deaconess Medical Center and Valley Hospital and Medical Center, and we value the contributions of all of our employees.  

We are disappointed that the SEIU 1199NW is taking this tactic.  The hospitals respect the collective bargaining process and we believe negotiations should take place at the bargaining table.  The hospitals remain committed to good-faith bargaining and we hope a mutually acceptable agreement will be reached soon.

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