Contract Talks Still Ongoing for Providence Nurses


Nurses at Providence Centralia are still bargaining over their contract, representatives said, amid news that groups at other Providence Hospitals have begun to settle. 

The group was scheduled to hold a “candlelight vigil” Wednesday evening at the corner of S. Scheuber Road and Cooks Hill Road in Centralia, after The Chronicle’s press deadline.  

The demonstration was one of a series of continued efforts on the part of Providence Centralia nurses to fight for provisions in contracts with the health care organization. 

According to a news release, the “vigil” was intended to “honor patients” and call for contracts “that ensure quality care for our patients, safe staffing levels, and wages and benefits that recruit and retain nurses and other healthcare workers.”

The Providence Centralia nurses planned to join their colleagues at 13 Providence hospitals throughout the state in simultaneous demonstrations in Olympia, Walla Walla, Spokane and Everett.

Other events were reportedly being hosted by the SEIU Healthcare 1199NW union of nurses and healthcare workers at multiple Swedish Providence locations in Seattle, Edmonds and Issaquah. 

“An additional reason for the ongoing challenges with Providence and one of the topics of the announced vigils across the state are our ongoing unfair labor practice charges against Providence,” said UFCW 21 Special Projects Director Tom Geiger in an email sent to The Chronicle. “Caregivers from UFCW 21 at Providence-owned facilities believe that Providence has committed multiple unfair labor practices across the state, including intimidation, surveillance and even threats to unilaterally cut healthcare benefits.” 

One reason for optimism is WSNA Sacred Heart labor union’s ability to reach a tentative agreement on their contract at approximately 3 a.m. on Jan. 7. 

“This win,” said Geiger, “was a result of the strong unity between UFCW 21, SEIU Healthcare 1199 NW and WSNA,” when addressing the unfinalized agreement. 

Longtime Providence Centralia registered nurse and UFCW 21 shop steward Diane Stedham-Jewell also weighed in on recent developments. 

“We still have significant issues that have yet to be resolved regarding safe staffing levels, recruitment/retainment of quality staff and also on the healthcare coverage to healthcare workers and nurses to take care of ourselves and our families,” she said. “We hope the employer moves to resolve these issues as they worked to resolve the issue on earned leave and sick leave.” 

Last week’s announcement of postponing an impending nurses’ strike, she added, was the result of 18 hours of negotiations that concluded with Providence agreeing to remove their short-term disability proposal that management previously claimed would “provide a stronger financial safety net for employees who need to take unexpected leave due to illness or an injury.” 

Stedham-Jewell and her colleagues pushed back on that statement by cautioning that the hospital’s plan wouldn’t be used by many workers and forecasted a greater “loss” for those employees. 

When Stedham-Jewell was last contacted by this paper prior to Wednesday’s rounds of negotiations, the 41-year Providence Centralia registered nurse shared that she remained very hopeful for “good news.”