University of Washington Medicine Valley Medical Center in Renton will see socially-distanced protests today, June 18, from nurses and healthcare workers in response to the medical center’s proposal of suspending employee’s retirement accounts, for a minimum of five months.
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW states in a press release that UW Valley Medical Center is the only employer represented by the union to propose saving money by cutting retirement during the coronavirus outbreak. The union states that caregivers feel “shocked and insulted” by the move, after being the hospital to treat the second case of COVID-19 in Washington state and months of work treating coronavirus patients.
Staff in medical masks will stand six feet apart on 43rd Street outside the hospital, holding signs and banners calling for reinstatement of the retirement contributions mandated by their union contract, according to the release, from 11 a.m. to noon and from 4 to 6 p.m.
The union also states these retirement contributions are especially important for the lowest paid workers, many of whom are people of color.
“While highly paid executives can make up for retirement cuts with their own savings, many healthcare workers live paycheck-to-paycheck,” the release states. “By suspending retirement plan contributions, Valley is stealing from the futures of its workers and their families.”
In early May, UW Medicine announced it expected losses of $500 million by the end of summer. Valley Medical Center had already started making furloughs and staffing changes related to the loss at that time, and further actions were being determined.