Posted by: sweeneyblog | September 30, 2014

PeaceHealth Caregivers Rally for Fair Wages

Braving the rainy weather and complete media blackout, the caregivers from PeaceHealth St. Joseph’s hospital turned out to rally for fair wages. The caregivers, members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, protested for several hours, bringing guest speakers and trying to draw attention to their struggle.

Peacehealth Caregivers

PeaceHealth Caregivers

The caregivers union was formed in a landslide election last September and now they are negotiating their first contract with Peacehealth. The central issue is wages and ironically, health insurance. Currently most union members make $2-4 an hour behind what caregivers at other area hospitals are making and their insurance plan leaves major gaps in coverage.

Kari Henderson, Senior Lab Assistant, discovered that PeaceHealth’s insurance for employees was not up to par when she had her first child last year. “An unexpected three day stay in the hospital yielded a mountain of unexpected bills. Better health coverage would help us keep our qualified and compassionate caregivers at St. Joseph’s Medical Center.” By comparison, PeaceHealth St. Joseph’s made $39 million in profit last year.


Fleetwood speaks at Caregivers Rally

This comes on the heels of announcements that PeaceHealth will shut down their adult day care center because of “huge financial challenges” according to Chief Administrative Officer Dale Zender. Zender placed the blame on budget woes from the Affordable Care Act – saying that less people are seeking expensive hospital treatment since they now have insurance to seek preventative and palliative care earlier in illness.

The rally, while not covered by any local media outlets, did draw some attention from local candidate for state senate, Seth Fleetwood, who spoke in support of the rallying caregivers, where he was warmly received.

This struggle affects the community beyond PeaceHealth. “Our work caring for our community is what makes PeaceHealth a great hospital,” said Judy Ringkvist, a Medical Technologist at PeaceHealth Labs.  “But if healthcare costs keep going up and our wages continue to stagnate, many of us will have to find different work in order to support our families, and that hurts our patients.”

You can learn more at their facebook page here and for those of you who followed this issue closely, I’m sorry this article took this long to come out – I am working to expand our labor coverage here on the Political Junkie and whenever there is a new beat, it takes time to get it right. You can support community journalism by making a donation here.



  1. I would be more sympathetic to them if they were NOT members of SEIU (one of Obama largest donors).

    Also, my guess is that they were supporters of Obamacare which has come back to bite them in the derriere.

    • Obamacare didn’t affect them since they already had health insurance through their employer – although they now have the option of shopping around on the markets.

      • Most employers have responded to Obamacare by shortening works hours, replacing full-time employees with part-time employees, changing to higher deductible and higher co-pay policies or dropping coverage completely and paying the fines.
        There is a multitude of news articles out there to back up my claim.

        They do “have the option of shopping around on the markets”, but in most cases the markets carry inferior products compared to what they had before.

      • I would dispute your facts here, all the evidence I’ve run across shows that companies said they were going to do all of those things….but when the law actually arrived they backtracked all of them.

  2. “Zender placed the blame on budget woes from the Affordable Care Act – saying that less people are seeking expensive hospital treatment since they now have insurance to seek preventative and palliative care earlier in illness.”

    How can he know this already when the ACA has only been in place for 9 months? That’s some pretty amazing preventative and palliative care to have had such a big effect in only 9 months!

    Or, it could be politically-motivated BS, which would be a disappointment coming from someone who, as a responsible senior leader in the community, should know better than to lie in the service of profit and political gain.

    So which is it, Mr. Zender? Care to expand and provide data on how the ACA has cut into your profits in such a short time?

    • 9 months is misleading because since the bill was passed in 2009 insurance companies have been planning major changes in reimbursements to doctors and hospitals. Insurance companies are by definition risk managers and have to plan as far ahead as possible. ACA has made this very difficult particularly when Obama keeps violating the law passed by giving extensions and exemptions to various donor he is beholden to. The ACA has always been political and not for the benefit of the healthcare system.

      I just received notice that from Regence that my monthly Medicare Advantage premium is going to $167 next year-up from $137 in 2014 and $99 in 2013. Such a deal! Bend me over again.

      Thankyou Barack Obama for improving my life. Declare Marshall law so you can become President For Life, America can’t survive without you.

      • This guy is the biggest liar on the internet. He is over on the B’ham Herald’s website making a fool out of himself in the comments section. He even wrote a letter to Cascadia Weekly where every other sentence starts with “I believe.” All this guy believes in is bullshit! lol!

      • And he is on Medicare Advantage, proof that he is just some old man with nothing better to do. His premiums probably went up because he is fat like most of the idiots in this country.

      • I prefer Marshall Tucker to Marshall law, but for real sound, nothing beats a Marshall Amp.

  3. “Zender placed the blame on budget woes from the Affordable Care Act – saying that less people are seeking expensive hospital treatment since they now have insurance to seek preventative and palliative care earlier in illness.”

    And this is a bad thing?

    So Peace Health has “huge financial challenges” because people can actually get treatment early in their illness? Sounds like they have a parasitic business plan. Let ’em writhe in pain until we can charge enough to put them into bankruptcy. Really Peace Health? Really?

  4. Thank you for covering this issue that is impacting our entire community. One of the main concerns of my fellow caregivers is staffing levels, which directly affects the quality of patient care we are able to provide. PeaceHealth can’t retain or recruit qualified caregivers when the wages are so far behind other hospitals in the area. Many departments in the hospital and laboratory are chronically short staffed and PeaceHealth needs to fix this.

  5. Riley,
    Thank you very much for covering this important event. In a town without a daily paper, we rely on tenacious, unafraid entrepreneurial journalists working on their own.

    The immaculately dressed CEO of St. Josephs, Dale Zender, now blames “Obamacare” for what is really a case of his corporation prioritizing profits over community service.

    Thanks again for covering this.

    Abe Jacobson

    • Oh we have a daily paper,
      they’re just too cowardly to report facts that might impact their revenue stream.
      A real newspaper might have exposed PeaceHealth’s entire budgetary process and balance sheet as a way of justifying or rejecting the last B&O tax vote from the city council and now,
      the lagging pay scale of these caregivers.
      Instead, they published meaningless opinions and veiled threats from those running the place as if that’s a substitute for reporting.

    • I added the “I believes” to satisfy the Bellingham Herald editor. I failed to remove them for the more enlightened editor of the Cascadia Weekly. Sorry for my senile moment.

      You had better watch out or you may be charged with ELDER ABUSE.

      You are a piece of work!

  6. Riley,

    You might contact Jake and see if he taking his MEDS.

    Are you monitoring these comments anymore (for everybody or just the postiers right of center)?

    • How tall are you and how much do you weigh, Wayne? This will give us an idea of why your insurance premiums went up. You’ve proved bad eye sight by responding in the wrong thread to my comments, so it looks like you have a whole host of health issues.

      From now on you will be known as Wayne Frauder!

      • 6′ 2″ and 155lbs. I used to be 145 but in order to compete in the Iditarod I had to put on ten pounds for endurance.

        I attempted to respond to your obtuse comments Jake (and I guess I was successful).

        I am curious what set you off initially-the use “I believe” in my Cascadia Weekly letter? I had submitted the same letter to the Herald earlier and had inserted “I believe” (for the first time so I might have some control of the final draft). I failed to remove this before sending it to CW. You know the Herald has been editing in “I believe” in letters for years. I questioned the editor about this and she said that the Herald reserved the right to do this. I think it is redundant because it is the OPINION page-hint, hint.
        I would prefer to NEVER to use “I believe”.

        You young whippersnappers ought show a little more respect for their elders. You will be one soon enough.

      • PS Jake. There were only TWO “I believes” in NINE sentences in my letter so show me how that works out to every others.

        Now I understand why math scores are so low today.

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