by Jasmine M. Pulido
On Monday, Sept. 5, a historic contract went into effect for the 1,700-person nursing team at Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH). After 12 bargaining sessions, a 1,200+-person picket line outside the hospital, and three mediation sessions over five months, the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA) and SCH finally reached an agreement.
What makes this new union contract historic is the wage increase. Over the next year, nurses will get a $10 per hour increase across the board, starting with a $6 an hour wage increase in Year 1 and then a $4 wage increase 11 months later. Over the three-year period negotiated, the base rate will have increased by 31%.
The new contract will result in a higher-percentage wage increase for newer nurses compared to more senior nurses. It will also result in hefty wage increases for anyone who is or was working part-time as a nurse. According to Travis Elmore Nelson, nurse representative of the WSNA Bargaining Team, it was of utmost importance to use an equity lens when surveying wages across the board. “We were really looking at how newer nurses — and a lot of our newer nurses tend to be People of Color — have not been able to stay at the bedside because they make so much less than our senior nurses.” With the turnover rate of nurses at SCH rising from 4.96% to 19.24% in the last two years, from December 2020 to January 2022, Nelson is hoping that the wage increase will help in the retention of newer nurses moving forward.
Aside from the wage increase, no major takeaways happened during negotiations. Other notable improvements include expanding leave of absence policies for “birth of a child leave” (formerly “maternity leave”) from 3 months up to 6 months (or more with manager approval), holiday work now accruing double-time when a minimum is met, and Juneteenth officially being declared a holiday in their contract.
In response to the contract being ratified, Jeanine Takala, Seattle Children’s spokesperson, told the Emerald in an email, “Seattle Children’s is pleased that our WSNA-represented nurses voted to ratify the new three-year contract that delivers on our commitment to lead the local market in nurse compensation. The new contract, in place through Aug. 31, 2025, includes measures that will enhance safety, retention, and recruitment, and recognizes the dedication, professionalism and quality of the 1,700-person nursing team at Seattle Children’s as well as the extraordinary circumstances they have been working under throughout the pandemic.”
Even though the WSNA bargaining team was able to procure this historic agreement, Elmore says there’s a lot more that nurses want to see done better to attract and retain nurses for the long run. “We think there needs to be some modifications to the culture in Seattle Children’s,” he said. “We know, for instance, there being 15 Black nurses is not acceptable. We’re going to do our best to continue to hold them accountable, practicing what they preach on DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), and bringing in nurses of all different backgrounds.”
Jasmine M. Pulido (she/her/siya) is a Filipina American writer-activist and small business owner living in Seattle. She’s currently pursuing her Master of Arts degree in Social Change.
📸 Featured Image: Over 1,300 Seattle Children’s Hospital nurses and supporters picketed outside of the SCH main campus on Sand Point Way on Aug. 9, 2022. (Photo: Jasmine M. Pulido)
Before you move on to the next story … The South Seattle Emerald is brought to you by Rainmakers. Rainmakers give recurring gifts at any amount. With over 900 Rainmakers, the Emerald is truly community-driven local media. Help us get to 1,100 Rainmakers by the end of the year and keep BIPOC-led media free and accessible. If just half of our readers signed up to give $6 a month, we wouldn't have to fundraise for the rest of the year. Small amounts make a difference. We cannot do this work without you. Become a Rainmaker today!