Solidarity with CHI hospice workers was alive and well on Monday, June 7th. More than 100 people turned out on short notice to ensure these dedicated workers know they are not alone in their struggle for fairness from their employer. Participants included Union Stewards, RN’s from St. Joseph and other medical facilities, families of patients who have utilized their outstanding hospice care, and other concerned citizens.

The rally was held across the street from St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma because CHI Company negotiators work in that building. It would have been hard to miss the chanting crowd and compelling speeches. Our Union negotiating committee organized the rally to show CHI leadership these workers are united and strong in their conviction to provide better patient care after CHI leadership decisions continue to negatively impact their very important work.

“The work performed by these members is invaluable to the communities that they serve,” said Western Territory General Vice President Gary R. Allen. “CHI withholding a fair contract from workers who put their heart and their soul into the care of their patients is despicable. I am heartened by these scenes of solidarity in holding the company accountable.”                            

You can show your support by signing our online petition that will be presented to CHI so they understand that others in the community are watching and support these workers in their struggle for a fair contract.

Those attending the rally were energized by the positive atmosphere (see rally video on YouTube ). CHI Franciscan Hospice Master Social Workers (MSW), Bereavement Counselors, Chaplains and RN’s voted for IAM representation to gain a voice and have a say in delivering top-notch, end of life patient care. Since voting for IAM representation, this group has selected and trained their negotiating committees, formulated and delivered proposals, and pushed to have emergent issues addressed, as they move toward securing a first collective bargaining agreement that lays a strong foundation for the future.

By gathering the CHI Hospice Workers together (who typically treat patients in their home and are rarely together), they drew strength from their collective power, gained inspiration from speaking with one voice and understood they are not alone and have an army of Machinists supporting their efforts and standing by to help however they are needed.

Speakers at the rally included a Master Social Worker, Bereavement Counselor and RN from our Union Negotiating Committee Merrillee Royse, Peggy McEntee and Gina Gwerder, as well as union leaders District 751 President Jon Holden, Chief of Staff Jason Chan, and Business Rep/Lead Negotiator Patrick Bertucci.

The messages crafted by the negotiating committee on signs emphasized these workers are not focused on wages and benefits, but patient care is their top issue. Signs read: Dignity Over Dollar$; United for Positive Change; Empower Us, Don’t Prevent Us; CHI – Do the Right Thing! nd We Put Patients First – Does CHI Hospice?

“What we do is not measured in productivity, what we do is part of humanity. In order for us to give to our patients and their families, all that we do, we have to be supported,” said Merillee Royse, who is a Master Social Worker serving on the bargaining committee.

“We came here because we knew this was the hospice that provided the best care throughout the Pacific Northwest. In the last five years, we have slowly been stripped of our hospice – what it means, what it provides to our families and how they treat us as employees. We are standing together to change that,” said Gina Gwerder, a hospice RN who is a member of the bargaining committee.

Issues that have prompted lengthy discussion at the bargaining table focus on patient care, the reputation of the organization, management decisions that make it harder to do this work, patient scheduling, the ill-advised Home Care Home Base system, autonomy in routing patients throughout the workday, delays in admitting and other failures like outsourcing decisions to other organizations rather than trusting the workers. Basically, we are trying to save CHI from more bad decisions that lower patient care.

Patrick Bertucci, who is lead negotiator on the Union side, noted “Your Union committee members are doing a fantastic job of bringing your issues to the table. They understand how important your work is, patients understand how important your work is, the community understands how important your work is… we need CHI to understand how important your work is. They need to understand that their reputation is suffering, patient care is suffering because of their changes and decisions… a tablet system that doesn’t work, excessive caseloads, poor communication, lack of managers… That is why we are here! CHI I hope you are listening.”

“The patients and families you support deserve better. You and your co-workers deserve better. And we are going to stand together and accomplish this together. Today you are sending a strong message that you deserve a fair contract that recognizes your expertise and dedication to the patients you serve and the organization you work for,” said IAM District 751 President Jon Holden. “We will achieve a first contract – one that improves your lives, as you improve the lives of the patients in your care.”

Again, a special thanks to our Union negotiating committee who has been pushing hard to get issues addressed at the bargaining table and deal with emergent issues impacting their work. Together, we will succeed.

Read how IAM District 751 is ensuring justice on the job .

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