Nurses picket at Seattle Children's, citing working conditions, staffing shortages

SEATTLE — From poor working conditions to ignored concerns, nurses at Seattle Children’s Hospital say they’ve been pushed to the edge.

Nurses are picketing and rallying outside Seattle Children’s Hospital on Tuesday.

The informational picket started around 6 a.m. and was organized by the Washington State Nurses Association, which represents around 1,700 nurses.

KIRO 7′s Kevin Ko spoke with nurses who said they didn’t want to be there, but felt that their union contract negotiations with hospital leadership are not going anywhere.

“They don’t care about us or the quality of care we’re giving,” said Tracy Brown, a nurse at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

The union says they’ve held nine bargaining sessions over four months for a new contract.

They say those negotiations have stalled, causing problems to persist for nurses.

Now, they’re urging the hospital to do more, so more registered nurses will jump on board.

“For me, being here for 30 years, a lot of the traveling nurses make two, three, even four times as much as I do,” said Edna Cortez. “And they have less experience than I do.”

Cortez has been a nurse at Seattle Children’s for 32 years and also serves as the co-chair for the hospital’s union.

She and others say veteran nurses are being let go and are being replaced by travel nurses in what she calls a broken, unfair system.

The union reports the nurse vacancy rate at the hospital was 19% at the end of January, a 14% increase since the end of 2020.

These nurses will also be picketing for pay raises, claiming they received less financial earnings than nurses at other local hospitals.

That includes a lack of a retention bonus, which they say other nurses provide for their nurses.

The union says the hospital needs 400 more nurses to properly care for its patients.

KIRO 7 reached out to Seattle Children’s for comment and received the following statement from a hospital spokesperson:

“Seattle Children’s deeply values and supports our team members and is committed to being a leader in compensation in the Seattle/Tacoma market. Seattle Children’s nurses are vital members of our team and integral to providing the highest level of care to the patients and families we serve. Like many healthcare organizations across the country, Seattle Children’s is experiencing a staffing shortage, which strains our system as a whole. While we would prefer to fill vacancies with Seattle Children’s staff, we’ve had to bring on additional support staff to ensure our patients continue to receive the highest level of care.

Seattle Children’s and the Washington State Nursing Association (WSNA) are in the process of negotiating a new version of their contract. The WSNA has decided to hold an informational picket in order to communicate their positions to the public. The informational picket is not a strike and participants are off-shift or not working at that time so patient care is not interrupted. While we cannot share the details of ongoing negotiations, we are diligently working to make progress and are committed to working collaboratively with the WSNA in order to reach a fair agreement as soon as possible. As negotiations continue, we all agree that putting patients first is our highest priority.”