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KRH nurses say they could soon strike

by STAFF REPORT
Staff Report | May 19, 2021 12:00 PM

Kalispell Regional Healthcare/Logan Health nurses affiliated with the Service Employees International Union Healthcare 1199NW have voted to authorize a three-day unfair labor practice strike "if hospital management continues to refuse to bargain in good faith," according to a press release issued Wednesday morning.

“Management has said they take an enormous amount of pride in the nurses and the exceptional work we do serving all across the system. Yet, during bargaining, they disrespect us and dismiss our concerns," bargaining team member Julie Anderson, a registered nurse, alleged in a statement. "We’re not asking for donuts and empty words. We’re asking for safe staffing ratios, benefits that don’t charge single parents an extra $1,200 a year and wages that are comparable with other large Montana hospitals.

"We have given them so many chances to ‘do the right thing’ and bargain in good faith. The goal has always been to get a fair contract. We don’t want to strike, but we will if we have to,” Anderson said.

Nurses with Kalispell Regional Medical Center, The HealthCenter, Brendan House and Kalispell Regional health clinics voted 372 to 199 in July 2019 to unionize. Over the last 18 months, nurses have been negotiating for a union contract that would recruit and retain the top-quality nurses Kalispell deserves and give nurses a voice in patient care.

The parties are scheduled to meet for bargaining today, and nurses say they hope Logan Health management will come to the table prepared to consider their proposals and bargain in good faith.

If a strike is called, the nurses will deliver the required 10-day notice to management, during which time they would continue to be available to bargain in the hope of reaching an agreement on a contract.

Since bargaining began in fall of 2019, Kalispell nurses have proposed staffing increases on all units; a nurse staffing committee so the voices of nurses can be heard in staffing decisions across the health system; and wages and benefits that will recruit and retain top-quality staff to care for the Flathead Valley community.

A Feb. 23 Daily Inter Lake article noted that neither the nurses union nor hospital management have said exactly how much registered nurses at Kalispell Regional earn, but according to an email sent to hospital staff from management, the union is asking for a 13% increase in base wages and a 25% increase in total compensation in the first year. The email stated that request, among others, are “unrealistic proposals” that are “limiting the progress of bargaining.”