Community members joined Providence employees on a picket line outside of Providence Centralia Hospital on May 5 in an effort to inform the public about ongoing contract negotiations between Providence and the worker’s union and to pressure the hospital into agreeing to the union’s requests.
“We have been at the bargaining table with Providence Everett, Centralia, and St. Peter Hospital for several months now and all we have seen from Providence is takeaways and subpar contract language,” said the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Chapter 21 (UFCW 21), which organized pickets at the four Providence sites, in a written statement. “It is clear to all the bargaining teams that to win a good contract we need to pressure them with workplace actions! They need to see that we are willing to fight and will not agree to their bad deal!”
Providence employees and their friends, family and fellow community members were asked to stand on the picket line in their free time — meaning before or after their shift, on a break or during time they had off — between 2 and 5 p.m. on May 5 and to send friends or family members to stand in their place if they were unable to attend.
Providence confirmed that tech and service caregivers who participated in the picket did so either on a break or while they were not scheduled to work.
“Providence respects that Wednesday’s activities are part of the bargaining process. To date, our negotiations have been collegial and one of partnership,” said a Providence spokesperson in a prepared written statement. “As always, we encourage union leaders and caregivers to focus their efforts on productively reaching agreements at the bargaining table.”
UFCW 21 is a private-sector union that represents health care workers along with workers in grocery, retail and other industry jobs in Washington. At Providence Centralia, UFCW 21 is asking for longevity step wage increases, annual wage increases and competitive hourly wage rates for employees.
The union is also asking Providence to reinstate “core standards” such as “just cause” that the hospital rejected during negotiations and cut language that allows the company to change policies during the life of the contract.
The hospital did propose a 2% merit increase outside of contract negotiations for techs and support services units, UFCW 21 reported.
“We did not ask for a merit increase at the bargaining table, but as a team we agreed to the increase and view it as a recognition of our work during the pandemic,” said UFCW 21 in a written statement.
“We value our caregivers,” said a Providence spokesperson. “We all want this to be the best place to work and the best place to receive care — when we stay focused on why we were called to serve in the health care field, we accomplish great things together.”