PROTEC17 would like to extend a warm welcome to three public health nurses at the Yakima Health District! Nurses Tanya Britt, Alexis Millett, and Kelsey Schindler chose to join forces with PROTEC17-represented Environmental Health specialists in Yakima to increase solidarity and power in their workplace. 

The nurses had previously been represented by SEIU 1199NW, but had been experiencing long delays in getting their contract renegotiated after the COVID-19 pandemic. After a few months of discussion, PROTEC17 and SEIU 1199 NW were able to collaboratively make the transition official and certify the new unit with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) earlier this year.

The nurses immediately got to work renegotiating their contract. After weeks of preparatory meetings with PROTEC17 Union Representative Suzie Saunders, negotiations commenced with the Yakima Health District in spring. 

Though Britt and Schindler were new to being on a bargaining team, they were able to articulate their issues and concerns to the health district with great success. A tentative agreement was reached that ensured their right to take grievances all the way to arbitration if needed, awarded them shift differential pay for after-hours work, and got them an 8.1 percent general wage increase for 2023. Additionally, they were able to utilize the PROTEC17 Professional Development Fund to help them with the costs associated with their yearly nursing license renewals.

The existing Yakima Health District members immediately welcomed the nurses into their chapter. Chapter leaders began holding quarterly chapter meetings to discuss workplace issues like safety and specialty pay. Nurses brought up a recent incident where they were working in a remote area in their mobile unit, an RV, when an unruly client entered and refused to leave. Though thankfully no one was hurt, this incident left the nurses shaken up and feeling that safety improvements and a policy change were needed. The group was able to work together to advocate for change, and management agreed to a new policy that would keep clients out of the RV, ensuring the safety of those working inside.

“We are excited to welcome our Nurse colleagues into our Chapter and our Union,” said Andrew Rodriguez, PROTEC17 Yakima Health Chapter President. “We value the work they do for our community, and we are proud to stand alongside them to ensure a fair and strong contract”.

Public health nurses and environmental health workers both play a critical role in safeguarding the health and well-being of our communities. By coming together and advocating for their rights and safety, these members have not only improved their working conditions but also enhanced the quality of healthcare services provided to their communities.