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News / Health / Clark County Health

PeaceHealth nurses ratify new contract with Vancouver hospital

Union said there was unprecedented turnout for voting

By Chrissy Booker, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 7, 2024, 3:50pm

Nurses at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver voted to ratify a new labor contract Thursday evening after 10 hours of voting.

The 1,465 nurses represented by the Washington State Nurses Association reached a tentative agreement May 29 with PeaceHealth after 18 bargaining sessions and an informational picket. The ballots were sealed until polls closed at 8 p.m. Thursday. Union leaders said there was unprecedented turnout within the bargaining unit for voting.

“This contract included big wins for nurses, including a stronger voice in staffing plans, protection against workplace violence and significant wage increases, but there’s still work to be done,” Jayson Dick, the union’s labor director, said in an email to The Columbian on Friday.

The new terms of the contract — including wage increases and workplace protections — will go into effect June 16. Nurses will see another wage increase on March 1. However, the new contract will not include minimum staffing requirements, a proposal that union leaders said previously would improve patient safety and decrease burnout among nurses.

“PeaceHealth’s conduct throughout negotiations damaged nurses’ trust in their managers,” Dick said. “The medical center refused to budge on core issues like pay for home health and hospice nurses and minimum staffing ratios, and WSNA will spend the next two years working to hold them accountable before we meet again at the bargaining table in 2026.”

PeaceHealth spokeswoman Debra Carnes said previously the union withdrew the proposal on staffing ratios.

“We are pleased that our PeaceHealth Southwest nurses have ratified their contract,” Carnes said in an email to The Columbian on Friday. “This contract supports them and their profession by providing competitive pay and benefits while supporting their ability to carry out our sacred mission of caring for those we serve.”

Last month, the union filed an unfair labor practice charge against PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, stating the parties remained far apart on core contract issues like wages, sick leave benefits and workplace violence prevention.

In April, PeaceHealth nurses participated in an informational picket, demanding safe staffing levels, increased wages and workplace protections, an effort that contributed to the wave of labor unrest and unionization across the health care field and in Clark County.

After 18 bargaining sessions, the new contract will include an average 10.3 percent bump for inpatient nurses. Wages across the bargaining unit will increase another 4 percent after March 1. Home health and hospice nurses will receive average increases of up to 6.5 percent and another 4 percent March 1.

The contract will also support policies on safety and workplace violence for nurses assaulted on the job. Nurses will keep earned sick leave banks, which cover time off for long-term illnesses.

Nurses working night shifts and those who are floated to a unit outside of their regular assignment will also receive increased premiums, a news release from the union stated.

“We value our nurses and thank them for their continued dedication and commitment to providing safe, quality patient care to our community,” Carnes said.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.