OLYMPIA -- A dispute over healthcare plans for hospital employees steered workers out of Providence St. Peter Hospital and to picket lines early Monday morning.
About 500 workers walked off the job in Olympia in what is the largest healthcare strike in the state in a decade. The workers plan on striking until Saturday if a deal is not reached.
At issue are rising healthcare costs – recent changes to the health care plan at Providence St. Peter increased deductibles and decreased out-of-pocket maximums for families -- the union said the changes could cost the average worker about 45 percent more out-of-pocket costs for health care.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) said if the hospital fails to reach an agreement by Wednesday, 150 more workers will join the picket line. The union represents nurses, housekeeping staff and other hospital workers.
"We work at a hospital, we are around sick people all the time and we love our jobs. But what are we supposed to do if we get sick, we need health care too," certified nursing assistant Abbey Bruce said.
Bruce said the change in the healthcare plan is costing her $400 more each month for the medicine her husband needs.
But the hospital insists the health care plans they are offering are fair and provide good healthcare options for workers.
The hospital added that it is ready for the strike and said it is fully staffed and patient care will not be compromised.