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Sacred Heart strike ends; negotiations may soon resume

Technical workers at Sacred Heart finished their strike Tuesday night and are now back on the job.
Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio
Technical workers at Sacred Heart finished their strike Tuesday night and are now back on the job.

Sacred Heart technical workers are back on the job after an eight-day strike.

Several workers told Spokane Public Radio during the walkout that they were eager to get back to work.

"I'd much rather be in the hospital than out here," said cardiac radiation technician Harrison Cochran.

“Yeah, I can’t wait to stand beside the doctors that I work with and help our community and our patients that come to us for treatment. That has never been something I was excited to leave to begin with," said Angie Holmes, a certified surgical technologist who is part of the bargaining team.

Holmes and Cochran say walking out was not an easy decision, but it was the right one, to send a message to Providence, but also to help hospital workers learn more about each other.

“There’s just several different classes of workers that we have that have all come together and I have really seen a unity develop between the different career fields that gave us a better understanding and a better education of what each other does," Holmes said.

It’s not known yet when negotiations between the technical workers’ union and Providence will resume. Both sides seem to be eager to get back to the bargaining table. Holmes says the tenor of the talks may be different than before the strike.

“I think there’s going to be an elephant in the room," she said with a laugh.

"I think that the tension level will definitely increase, in my opinion. I still don’t think that it’s going to be contentious.”

"I think there's been hard feelings for about four months, unfortunately," Cochran said. "I hope our negotiators stay professional, but also strong in our demands and what we want to see happen."

Providence Inland Northwest CEO Susan Stacey says she too will be ready when workers come back.

“We will do those negotiations as we have in the past, as we have prior to the strike," she said.

That is the problem, says the union’s local president, Faye Guenther. She and others accuse Providence of bad faith bargaining in the months leading up to the strike.

“Providence management showed up to propose stripping our workers’ health and dental benefits. Can you imagine? Can you imagine? Can you imagine that? It’s preposterous," she said at a press conference in mid-April, announcing the strike

Union officials say they have proposed measures that would allow Sacred Heart to keep its workers from going elsewhere. That includes pay raises to the levels that tech workers at Deaconess Hospital enjoy.

Stacey says Providence has made competitive offers and notes that the company continues to lose large amounts of money as it emerges from the COVID pandemic.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.