WA Workers Feel Disrespected After Challenging Year

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SEATTLE — Washington state workers who showed up throughout the pandemic are feeling disrespected by their employers as the state opens up.

About 1,200 education support professionals from SEIU Local 1948 in the Bethel School District south of Tacoma are in contract negotiations.

At a school board meeting today, they will be holding a rally and calling for proper compensation for their work throughout the pandemic.

Jenn Hansen, student resource specialist for the Bethel School District and union chapter president, said their unofficial slogan is to “Fight the fight to make it right.”

“We need our pay brought up so that we can support our families and be respected,” Hansen asserted.

Members of SEIU Local 1948 include child nutrition, transportation and maintenance staff. Hansen pointed out they continued to show up at schools even as learning went remote.

Teachers, who received a raise from the district, will be at the rally today to support their colleagues. The Bethel School District said they have collaboratively solved many areas of interest with the union and are working to conclude negotiations as soon as possible.

Hansen emphasized the rally today is to emphasize the critical role of education support staff for schools.

“Without us, you’re not going to have schools in session,” Hansen stressed. “And so, treat us with respect so that we can show you that we want to respect our schools and our students and our community.”

Meanwhile, nurses in Seattle are also looking for better compensation.

Brittany Jones, a registered nurse in the emergency department at Harborview Medical Center for more than 15 years, said work during the pandemic has been stressful and scary, and she saw many nurses leave the profession completely.

Jones contended she and other nurses from SEIU Local 1199 feel like they’ve been “slapped in the face” by Harborview as they go through contract negotiations.

“My co-workers and I are angry,” Jones stated. “We’re angry that we’re not being respected and that we’re not being compensated. And it’s all interwoven. So if Harborview can’t respect us enough to pay us enough to stay, it affects the entire community.”

In a statement, University of Washington Medicine said it has put forward its largest package ever with some of the biggest wage increases ever offered, including an 8% increase over two years for registered nurses.

Featured photo: SEIU Healthcare 1199NW represents more than 30,000 health-care workers across Washington state, including at Harborview Medical Center. (SoundersBruce/Flickr)

Eric Tegethoff

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

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