Here's why Kadlec caregivers are picketing

Kadlec caregivers hit the picket line. Here's why they want your help

Kadlec employee Becky Strode explains why caregivers at Kadlec Regional Medical Center held an informational picket outside the Richland hospital.
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Kadlec employee Becky Strode explains why caregivers at Kadlec Regional Medical Center held an informational picket outside the Richland hospital.

Kadlec Regional Medical Center nursing assistants, radiology techs and other caregivers said they picketed Wednesday because they want to provide the best service possible to the community.

To be able to do that, "we need to make a livable wage and be able to take care of ourselves and our families," said Becky Strode, a longtime telemetry monitor tech at the Richland hospital.

The caregivers are part of a newly formed union that's in the midst of negotiating its first contract. They say Providence St. Joseph Health — Kadlec's parent organization — is balking at some items that are included in other employee contracts at Providence facilities around the state

"We’re not asking for extra things, but things that are existing in other facilities," Strode said, adding that the picket was about informing the public and keeping the process moving.

But Kadlec officials said the picket was premature, noting negotiations still are going on.

"Since the parties are starting from scratch, first contracts typically take longer to negotiate," they said in a statement, adding that they're "committed to negotiating in good faith."

"We have made progress in the talks, including at our most recent session on Monday. We look forward to continuing discussions with the union’s team at our next session on May 16," they said.

The union, which includes more than 800 employees, formed last year. Leaders have been working with officials for months on a first contract.

Strode pointed to paid time off and the extended illness bank as points of contention.

For example, "we’ve been bargaining to restore the levels of PTO (paid time off) we had (before cuts were made), and bringing it up to par with other contracts at Providence facilities throughout the state," she said.

"We’ve been bargaining in good faith. We’ve made some progress, but it’s been (months) since we started this process. They need to do something," Strode told the Herald.

In a statement, CT tech Suzanne Morell added, “Providence has billions of dollars that they could use to make (sure) our staffing is better, our jobs can support our families and our patients get great care. It’s a shame that they’re treating Tri-Cities patients and workers like we’re nothing but a source of dollars.”

Employees picketed outside the hospital mid-day Wednesday and planned a community rally Wednesday evening.

Kadlec officials said they're "disappointed that the union is, in our opinion, taking the premature step of holding an informational picket." But they greatly value the caregivers and want to reach a contract soon.

"We hope that we can make steady progress — keeping in mind our shared goal of continuing to provide safe, compassionate care to our patients and community," they said in a statement.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529, @saratcherald