If you have ever walked into Swedish, you know it is a special place. Our nurses, doctors and staff are deeply committed to serving our patients and our community with dignity, integrity and compassion. At Swedish, we believe that health care is a fundamental right. We strive to live our values every day to make our community better.
Over the last ten months, we have been bargaining with SEIU 1199NW. Despite our efforts to put forward one of the strongest wages and benefits packages provided by any health care organization in this region (Swedish Proposals at a Glance), SEIU recently notified us they are planning a three-day strike at Swedish, from January 28 until January 31.
Throughout this process, we have heard a lot of misinformation about our proposal, our finances and our commitment to providing safe patient care. I want to set the record straight.
This bargaining process is not a negotiation between SEIU and Providence. Swedish is affiliated with Providence but we are a separate business with an independent board and by-laws. Swedish is a secular, not-for-profit organization committed to caring for everyone who walks through our doors. Fulfilling our role as the community’s health partner means that we deliver free or discounted care to all those who need it and partner with local organizations that address some of the most urgent challenges in our community.
I am proud that we have offered a comprehensive proposal that reflects how much we value our people and their families. We are disappointed that SEIU has chosen to strike despite a package that includes:
- An across-the-board 11.25% wage increase over 4 years, which puts Swedish at the top of the market.
- A zero-premium PPO medical plan for full-time caregivers, and their covered family members, who make up to $60,000 in income from Swedish. This will save eligible caregivers an average of $1,100 per year.
- No premium or deductible increases for the Swedish PPO medical plan over the life of the contract.
- Hiring a new Chief Diversity Officer to lead efforts to improve Swedish’s organizational equity and inclusion.
The real divide comes down to a difference in approach. With a national nursing shortage, we want to work with our nurses to identify solutions to fill our open positions and build a strong talent pipeline. We have committed to recruiting additional caregivers to ensure that our employees have the support they need to continue providing safe care, but SEIU wants control over our staffing decisions. It is unprecedented for any union to take that control away from management. We refused to back down despite their threat to strike.
Swedish has stretched to put forward this improved package proposal in response to concerns we heard at the bargaining table. SEIU continues to make demands that do not reflect the Puget Sound market, including a 23% wage increase over 4 years. We do not want a divisive strike, but we simply cannot support SEIU’s overall demands. As a not-for-profit health care provider, we owe it to the communities we serve to be responsible stewards of our resources. We are confident that our current package proposal appropriately balances our commitment to our communities and our determination to reward our caregivers for their professionalism and excellence.
I am disappointed that we are in this situation, but Swedish will continue to ensure we are here for our community over the long-term. I joined Swedish more than a decade ago as a pediatric urologic surgeon because Swedish puts the needs of patients first. That is what inspires us to provide best-in-class care to every patient, not turning a profit.
You can rely on us to provide high-quality, safe care, even during a strike. We will carry forward the legacy we have built over the last century into the future, so we can continue to be here for generations to come. We appreciate your patience as we work with SEIU to find a responsible path forward, together.
R. Guy Hudson, M.D., MBA
Chief Executive Officer Swedish Health Services