Striking Swedish nurses march, others cross picket line

SEATTLE — Swedish nurses on strike took their message to the streets Wednesday afternoon. They marched from the Swedish Campus on First Hill to Westlake Center, where they held a rally.

>>Thousands of nurses at Swedish Healthcare strike for first time in its history

The members of SEIU 1199 say Swedish is putting profits over patients. The union says it has about 8,000 members working at the seven Swedish campuses.

“We’re hoping the public can see what a difference we’re trying to make. Again, this isn’t about wages, this is about patient safety,” said nurse Amanda Bingham as she held a picket sign.

Nurse Nicole Mesick carried one of her 2-year-old twins as she marched. “I want safe patient ratios. I want to have more translation equipment available for those who don’t speak our language.”

The striking nurses say they want Swedish to improve the nurse-patient ratio. “That means there’s an appropriate number of patients per nurse. That means that I can actually teach someone how to be discharged to go home and take care of their newborn,” explained postpartum nurse Amanda Williams.

Swedish says of the SEIU employees scheduled to work in the last 24 hours, 28% of them crossed the picket line.

>>Two ERs closed as thousands of nurses, staff at Swedish hospitals strike for 3 days

Cheryl Schafer has been a nurse for 42 years. She’d never crossed a picket line before but feels strongly about this labor dispute.

"It is a legal strike because we did vote for it but it is shady because it's not based on recent proposals," said Schafer.

Schafer says the strike vote was taken in November and Swedish made a better offer in January an offer she said should have gone to a union vote.

That’s why recovery nurse NancyEllen Elster crossed the picket line.

“I believe the last one management set forward was a good and fair contract. There might be a few things that need to be tweaked, but overall it was a good and fair contract,” said Elster.

They say staffing levels are tricky. “The thing with a staff shortage is we are smack dab in the middle of a national nursing crisis shortage. You can’t pull people in when they’re not out there,” added Schafer.

The strike is scheduled to end Friday morning at 7:30 a.m. In the meantime, emergency rooms in Ballard and Redmond are closed.

>>Thousands of caregivers with Swedish facilities postpone planned strike

Swedish released a statement Wednesday that said it is postponing all elective and nonemergency surgeries. It is focusing on emergencies. While Swedish wouldn’t say exactly how many nurses it brought in to replace striking nurses, it told KIRO-7 it is around 2,000.