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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sacred Heart nurses prepare for strike as Tri-Cities nurses reach tentative agreement

Liz Ricciardi protests in Spokane on May 9, 2019. Liz has been an RN for Sacred Heart for 36 years and works in NICU. The nurses were protesting for better contracts and have authorized a strike. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

A group of unionized nurses in the Tri-Cities reached a tentative contract agreement with Providence officials Monday night, but their counterparts at Spokane’s Sacred Heart Medical Center are continuing to prepare to strike.

Nurses and health care workers at Providence facilities statewide have authorized strikes, and the bargaining unit at Kadlec is the first to reach a tentative agreement.

The 950 union nurses at Richland’s Kadlec Regional Medical Center reached their agreement with Providence after 14 months of bargaining.

The Washington State Nursing Association represents nurses at Kadlec, Providence and other facilities where contract negotiations are ongoing.

Under their tentative agreement, Kadlec nurses will be able to keep their banks of accrued sick leave, a news release from WSNA said. New nurses hired by Kadlec will be offered a new paid time off plan proposed by Providence.

“We don’t believe it (the agreement) would have been possible without that solidarity of 15,000 workers across the state who are ready to strike,” said Anne Piazza, senior director of strategic initiatives at WSNA.

Next, Kadlec nurses will have to vote to ratify the contract.

Kadlec did not want to comment on the agreement until it was ratified but did release a statement thanking the community and all negotiating parties.

“Thank you to everyone who took part in the talks. We worked through all of the proposals in a thoughtful and deliberate way and in the end found common ground to reach (an) agreement,” Kirk Harper, chief operating officer at Kadlec, said in a release.

In Spokane, negotiations have not yielded similar results.

Kadlec nurses have contracts that are different from nurses at Sacred Heart, where WSNA represents 1,900 nurses, but many of the issues are similar.

Proposed changes to paid time off and sick leave have been at the heart of negotiations.

Nurses at Sacred Heart voted to authorize a strike a month ago.

The WSNA bargaining unit and Providence officials had a mediation session on Friday that was unsuccessful. Piazza said they are working to schedule another session.

Both the hospital and the bargaining unit have stressed that they want to avoid a strike if possible.

“At Sacred Heart, our nurses will continue our fight to protect those earned benefits,” Piazza said. “We will continue to build strike committees and make strike preparations and stand with other Providence workers across the state.”

This story has been updated to include a statement from Kadlec Regional Medical Center.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.