After the local union meeting and further reflection, I’m moving my vote from “no” to “yes” for the current Tentative Agreement. This is a mixture of good counter-arguments to my concerns, further elaboration of opinions of our negotiation team, and a healthy dose of “mental chess” looking at strike strategy. Buckle up, I’ll try to go through all of it.
My primary concern is that leaving out future new hires and part-time / per-diem nurses presents a long-term hole in our defenses that Providence can exploit to remove our PTO benefit in one or two contract cycles by aging out the grandfathered members. While that is still an ever-present threat, the counter points that resonate with me are as follows:
- There’s no previous precedent in contracts for protecting future nurses. I joined and did not get EIB or the former versions of PTO and yet we still fight to keep it for those nurses who earned it.
- There’s no guarantee in one to two contracts time we’re even negotiating with Providence with the culture of hospital systems devouring one another. Hell, in one election cycle we may move to a Medicare-For-All system for all we know and that may cause the ground to move from under us. Moreover, it’s entirely possible the priorities of us nurses will move over time depending on what our population looks like.
- As noble as it is to fight for future coworkers and new-hires. It is arguably just as valuable to fight for current members and current employees as a priority. To that end, the current TA meets 90-95% of what we asked for.
That covers my concerns/counter arguments/elaborations. On to the chessboard:
- There’s a real concern that any strike we could have had is already going to be weaker by default because of this TA’s existence. How do we convince our nurses to stand on a picket line when they look at this contract offer and say “this is 95% of what I wanted.”? Especially if the “no” vote isn’t overwhelming.
- There’s no guarantee striking will improve the language of what we get afterward. While I do think there ARE good odds, and I’d favor bleeding a little this year for a long-term benefit. The lack of surety will shake others - even if it doesn’t shake me. For a strike to be successful, we must all be hardened, pissed off, and ready to go.
- As powerful as our coalition is with the rest of Washington state, until/unless we are a unified bargaining unit, Providence is able to play us against each other. In the local meeting alone, there were fears presented that our TA could be offered to other units - they accept that TA - and we receive something lesser as a result. It’s important to recognize this liability before counting on them to fight beside us in a state-wide strike.
Lastly I want to chime in for a final concern I expressed: that all we did was fight to keep what we had and we did not gain anything new. That’s false. We gained a few important things that previously we did not have:
- The staffing committee language is a benefit we currently don’t have. Half nurses on that committee AND a WSNA rep at the table to play referee is a huge game changer when it comes to deciding how many patients are to a nurse.
- The workplace safety language that allows us to give away patients that threaten us is a game changer for many nurses at Kadlec. Even in my bubble in the OR, it will affect Pre-Op and PACU.
- The short-term disability and family/new parent leave benefit is an improvement even upon the state of WA’s new law.
Thank you for reading this if you’re invested in the topic. I appreciate your company in my TED Talk. Regardless of how the vote turns out, I’m on your side - fired up and ready to go if we end up having to strike.
Your OR Rapid Response Organizer, Drew.