WSNA continues to address the concerns raised by members like you as nurses across the state fight the coron­avirus pandemic. Our advocacy with hospi­tals, state officials, Washington’s congres­sional delega­tion and in the media is paying off.

Here are updates on recent key efforts to deliver the resources and support you need to serve your patients and keep yourselves safe.

Teaser alert 1

Major win to prohibit use of carcinogen for PPE sterilization #

Nurses at some WSNA repre­sented facil­i­ties reported respi­ra­tors and face masks being collected for repro­cessing using ethylene oxide to decon­t­a­m­i­nate. The Federal Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA) has concluded that ethylene oxide is carcino­genic to humans and that exposure to ethylene oxide increases the risk of lymphoid cancer and, for females, breast cancer. WSNA sent cease and desist letters demanding an immediate halt to the reusing of any face masks, including N‑95 and other respi­ra­tors, that have been decon­t­a­m­i­nated by the ethylene oxide cleaning process. In addition, WSNA reported this hazard to the Washington State Depart­ment of Labor & Indus­tries’ Division of Occupa­tional Safety and Health.

As a result of our advocacy, L&I issued this DOSH Hazard Alert with the following direc­tive:

Hospi­tals and clinics are required to use their ethylene oxide (EtO) steril­izer systems for their intended and manufac­turer-approved purposes. EtO steril­izer systems must NOT be used to sterilize masks, respi­ra­tors, PPE or items worn by humans.

Hazard pay danielle otoole

Stand with Nurses and Health Care Workers petition and advocacy #

On March 26, WSNA, SEIU 1199 and UFCW 21 launched a joint petition calling on hospi­tals to address key issues of concern to our members, including PPE, hazard pay, work accom­mo­da­tions and paid leave if exposed to COVID-19 at work. Our goal was to raise aware­ness, gather data we could bring to employers and the media, and show a united front as health care unions in calling for priority issues, including PPE, hazard pay, work accom­mo­da­tions, and paid leave if exposed at work. Since the launch of the petition, we have gathered more than 18,000 signa­tures and have achieved a number of victo­ries on our issues: 

  • More than twenty COVID-19 agree­ments (memorandum of under­standing) secured across the state. Highlights of provi­sions achieved include:
    • Paid admin­is­tra­tive leave when quarantined
    • Immediate access to EIT/PTO
    • Timely notifi­ca­tion (“within 8 hours,” as soon as possible”) of exposure
    • Mainte­nance of health insur­ance if unable to work
    • Float premiums ($4-$10/hr)
    • Additional bank of paid emergency time off hours

Please be sure to refer­ence memorandum of under­standing reached at your facility for details.

  • On April 10, Gov. Inslee sent a Memorandum on workers’ compen­sation clearly defining new condi­tions including:
    • assuming any COVID-19 exposure occurred on the job unless there is clear evidence otherwise
    • the state will pay for medical and time-loss costs for quaran­tine period regard­less of final diagnosis
    • provides relief for employers who have workers utilize this benefit, disin­cen­tivizing employers from telling their nurses and health care workers that they became sick through​“commu­nity exposure”

  • On April 13, Gov. Inslee issued a Procla­ma­tion protecting high-risk employees that guarantees:
    • workers over age 65 and workers with under­lying health condi­tions can choose an alter­na­tive work assignment
    • use accrued leave or unemploy­ment benefits (with mandated employer-maintained health coverage) if alter­na­tive work assign­ment is not feasible
    • prohibits employers from perma­nently replacing high-risk workers (meaning workers who need protec­tion now must be given their job back when this is over)

We have made our voices heard on these issues, and we are contin­uing to raise our voice and advocate for our members’ needs.

See the list of recent media articles further down in this email.

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WSNA members meeting with congres­sional delega­tion

Members of Congress need to hear from nurses working on the front­lines in health care facil­i­ties in their districts. WSNA has been facil­i­tating video confer­ence meetings between nurses and their members of Congress around the state. These listening sessions are an oppor­tu­nity for our congres­sional delega­tion to hear about your experi­ences on the front­lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During these meetings, nurses are sharing their experi­ences and concerns with lack of PPE, inade­quate COVID testing, and – in light of these unsafe working condi­tions – are asking for hazard pay.

So far, WSNA members have met with Congressman Derek Kilmer (7th CD), Congressman Adam Smith (9th CD), Congressman Dan Newhouse (4th CD), Congress­woman Suzan DelBene (1st CD), Congress­woman Pramila Jayapal (7th CD) and Congressman Denny Heck (10th CD). Additional meetings are sched­uled for later this week and next week.

Email your federal elected repre­sen­ta­tives.

Congress is discussing a fourth COVID stimulus package – add your voice by asking them to protect nurses and other health care workers by including funding for:

  • Adequate supply of Personal Protec­tive Equip­ment (PPE)
  • Acces­sible and accurate COVID-19 testing
  • Hazard pay that recog­nizes the dangerous situa­tion without proper PPE and testing

Email your member of Congress (it takes less than 2 minutes).

Special message from WSNA Presi­dent Lynnette Vehrs to our nurses
In case you missed it, our WSNA presi­dent shared a video message on Facebook and YouTube.

Polit­ical advocacy

Our advocacy doesn’t stop at the bedside. WSNA is recruiting for delegates to attend the virtual Washington state labor council’s COPE Endorsing Conven­tion on Saturday, May 16. This is your chance to have your voice and your vote count on congres­sional, statewide, state legisla­tive and judicial candi­dates, plus state ballot measures.

It’s also a chance to support one of our own WSNA members in her race for the state senate. Ingrid Anderson is a former ED/​current behav­ioral health nurses running for State Senate in the 5th legisla­tive district.

We all know how impor­tant it is to have nurses at the table where decisions are made and since there is currently no nurse in the WA State Senate, now is the time to put one there to speak knowl­edge­ably about nursing issues. If you want to become a delegate and can commit to being avail­able on May 16, email today.