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Sacred Heart nurses vote to authorize a strike; next negotiation set for Tuesday

Sacred Heart nurses, from left, Tara Lavinder, Chelsea Bresnahan, Ester Wallace, Darryl Johnson and Craig Lavinder, gather outside the Carpenters Hall for voting to authorize a strike on Thursday. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Nurses at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, the Washington State Nurses Association announced late Friday night.

More than 1,900 nurses are represented by WSNA at Sacred Heart, and the vast majority of nurses they represent participated in the vote, the union said in a news release..

WSNA did not release specific vote count numbers. ,The authorization vote comes after nearly a year of negotiations with Providence officials, including with a federal mediator in recent months.

The next negotiation date for WSNA with Providence officials is set for Tuesday.

“Nurses at Sacred Heart have spoken loud and clear, and we are ready to strike if we have to,” Stevie Lynne Krone, nurse and WSNA co-chair, said in a statement Friday night. “When we go back to the bargaining table on the 29th, we hope management recognizes our resolve to fight for a fair contract that will allow us to care for ourselves, our families and our patients.”

The nurses are not the only Sacred Heart employees who voted to authorize a strike this week. Service and maintenance workers as well as nursing assistants belonging to UFCW 21 overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike on Thursday.

The nurses’ strike authorization vote does not immediately initiate a strike; that decision would ultimately be made by a higher WSNA cabinet, after negotiations next week.

The UFCW 21-represented workers will wait for other union members at Providence facilities across the state to vote through the end of the month on whether to authorize strikes. UFCW 21 will discuss the next steps after all workers at Providence locations have voted, the union said in a news release.

Nurses and other unionized health care workers at Sacred Heart have concerns with Providence’s proposed changes to their benefits package and staffing levels at the largest hospital in Eastern Washington. Negotiations on WSNA and UFCW 21 contracts have been ongoing with officials for nearly a year.

“We are aware that UFCW and WSNA have voted for a strike authorization. At this time, the hospital has not received a 10-day strike notice, which is required if there were to be a strike,” a statement from Providence released Friday night said. “Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital are both open and here to care for our community. We are actively bargaining in good faith with WSNA and a federal mediator and we are hopeful that we can come to an agreement with both unions so we can avoid a strike.”

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.