Elected officials join Swedish Edmonds workers on informational picket line

SEIU members march in an informational picket along 76th Avenue West and through the Swedish Edmonds hospital campus.

An estimated 60 health care workers from Swedish-Edmonds took to the streets on Thursday to publicly air their claims, chief among them that providing the best quality care is no longer the organization’s top priority, having been replaced by executive pay, profits and expansion. The workers are represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and have been working without a contract since July 30.

In what was described as an informational picket, the marchers chanted slogans and talked with passersby along 76th Avenue West, proceeding through the hospital campus to Highway 99.

Marchers were of all ages.

“We’re here to fight for safe patient care, equitable wages and racial justice,” said spokesperson Whittney Powers, who has worked for the past two years in the Swedish-Edmonds emergency room. “We see Swedish prioritizing profit over safe patient care, and we’re concerned about the negative effects of this on us, the patients and the community.  Today we hope to raise awareness of the need to ensure safe patient care through maintaining appropriate ratios of caregivers, safe staffing levels, wages and benefits that will recruit and maintain top-quality staff, and racial justice, equity and respect for all.”

Joining the picket line in support of the workers was 21st District State Rep. Strom Peterson, Edmonds City Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, Edmonds City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Mike Nelson, and Edmonds City Council candidates Alicia Crank, Laura Johnson and Jenna Nand. Nelson is also Executive Director of the SEIU Leadership Council 14, also known as SEIU Washington State Council, where according to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission he has lobbied on behalf of the union since 2012.

“I’m here today to stand with our health care workers who are trying to provide the best care for our citizens and family members,” Nelson said. “Unfortunately, we are at an impasse now with hospital administration, which is detrimental to our patients. Reduced staffing and longer hours mean less efficient and effective care.”

21st District State Rep. Strom Peterson and Edmonds City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Mike Nelson were on hand to lend their support to the marchers.

In a written statement released Aug. 22, Swedish stressed that it is negotiating “in good faith,” and affirmed its commitment to work with the union to reach agreements that accomplish what it says are the “shared goals of providing competitive wages and benefits for our caregivers and ensuring we continue to provide affordable, high-quality care that our patients expect and deserve.”

In addition, Swedish maintains a Negotiation News website to keep caregivers, patients and the community informed.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

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