SEATTLE – Day two of the Swedish Medical Center Strike ended Wednesday with a march and rally at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle. While hundreds of nurses, caregivers and staff rallied for fair contracts, one nurse said she didn’t agree with the strike.
Cheryl Schafer is a registered nurse in Swedish’s colon cancer department. The charge nurse reached out to the media saying there was another side to the story that wasn’t being told.
“We are not being allowed a voice in what the contract is or having a say in it. And that’s wrong,” said Schafer.
Crossing the picket line is something Schafer has never done in her 42 years as a nurse, until now.
“Because of the way things have unfolded, I can’t support it,” she said.
Nearly 8,000 nurses, staff members and other caregivers of Swedish Medical Center are on strike. They're calling for better contracts that will help retain staff and workloads.
“It is a legal strike because we did vote for it, but it’s shady because it’s not based on recent proposals. And when we would ask people in the Union, the delegates, why aren’t we given a chance to vote, there was no answer,” said Schafer.
Schafer said the SEIU Healthcare 1199W union was presented a contract proposal in October. It wasn’t good enough, so the union voted to strike, which is what is unfolding on the sidewalks of Seattle. In a statement, union representatives said Swedish has not bargained in good faith.
“The proposals management brought to the table were ultimately not good enough for my coworkers. The proposals didn’t address our safety and staffing needs. They were simply not good enough. Not good for our coworkers, not good for our families, and certainly not good for our patients,” wrote Jenifer Hollyfield, a surgical technologist at First Hill.
“I voted against it. I did not vote to strike because I felt there had not been enough work,” said Schafer.
Schafer said the union hasn’t been transparent or working hard enough to inform members about negotiations. She said what a lot of people don’t know is a better deal was presented earlier this month. Schafer claims the union is keeping members like her out of the conversation.
“We were not offered a chance to vote again on the most recent proposal,” said the nurse. “Swedish, on the other hand, was putting out things on our intranet updates so that we knew more about what was going on with our contract negotiations from them, rather than our paid representative.”
Union representatives are rebutting Schafer’s accusations of the group not working hard enough.
“We’re in this position right now because bargaining failed. We are too far apart, the union and management. Our bargaining team is trusted by our colleagues and was voted in to be their voice and speak on their behalf. Our coworkers authorized the bargaining team to make the call that if it came to it, we would go on strike. Sadly, it did come to it,” said Lizette Vanunu, a charge nurse at ICU First Hill
During the strike, Swedish worked to coordinate services to prevent the least amount of impact on patients. Swedish confirms non-emergent surgeries are being rescheduled. Swedish also said consolidated operations Level 2 Nursery and Adult ICU were moved from Issaquah to other campuses.