Who’s in charge here?

That’s the question I couldn’t help but ask when I attended the Skagit Valley Health board meeting last Friday and listened to representatives of almost 900 nonnursing SRH staff politely request that the board pay attention to the bad faith that hospital management has exhibited in the so far fruitless bargaining with their union.

They were met with seeming indifference.

So far, after months of bargaining, SRH has produced an offer that was rejected by more than 95 percent of the union because it ignored the fundamental issues of salary, equity and working conditions the workers brought to the table.

The SRH bargaining team has delayed bargaining sessions, held them at inconvenient locations and times, and made differential salary offers to tempt workers to turn on one another, all while CEO pay has nearly doubled and the nonnursing employee turnover rate has rocketed to nearly 35 percent.

As the workers who spoke at Friday’s meeting said, this is not just about workers. It’s about delivering good health care to the community, a responsibility that becomes harder to fulfill as the work environment becomes more toxic.

That toxic mix includes low wages, long workdays, significant under-staffing, and the same general disrespect exhibited so far in negotiations.

Next time you are in the hospital, as a visitor or patient, picture this: Approximately one in every three people you see is new and likely inexperienced because those they replaced left for a better job.

It’s time our Skagit hospital commissioners told their negotiation team to stop delaying and deal with the real issues facing Skagit Regional Health.

These issues are community issues that affect everything from our economy to our health.

After all, who’s in charge, if not the board we elect?

Janet McKinney
LaborDem Work Group Coordinator

Published in the Skagit Valley Herald
on June 2, 2016