Group Health Cooperative nurses walk out on March 22, 1995.

  • By HistoryLink Staff
  • Posted 9/06/2005
  • Essay 7417
See Additional Media
On March 22, 1995, Group Health nurses, organized by 1199 Northwest, engage in a one-day walkout. Group Health management responds by informing the nurses they are not to report to work for a week, which the nurses term a lockout. The union publishes advertisements questioning the quality of care at Group Health. Group Health Chief Executive Officer Phil Nudelman denounces the ads as "distorted and slanderous statements" (Crowley, 232). The nurses will return to work with the bitter conflict unresolved. The issue involves Group Health's layoffs of nurses in the context of the cooperative's new affiliation and partial merger with Virginia Mason, which the Seattle Weekly calls "staunchly nonunion" (Crowley 232).

The union's vehemence stemmed from the suspicion that Group Health's alliance with Virginia Mason would lead to massive layoffs through a consolidation of staffs and facilities and to decertification of existing labor representation. The union's worst fears seemed to be realized when the boards of both organizations voted on June 14, 1995, to pursue "closer ties." This took the form of proposals to establish a jointly owned operating company to manage most of their respective assets and to develop new enterprises, and to reorganize Group Health's Central Hospital to handle maternity care and out-patient surgery while all overnight acute care was transferred to Virginia Mason's First Hill campus.

The nurses' issue was not so much over paychecks -- Group Health still paid the highest salaries in the market -- as it was job security. The union had already made what it considered to be major concessions by accepting a three-year wage freeze, benefit cuts, and a 10 percent across-the-board reduction in staff. The union's key demand was to limit future layoffs to those with the least seniority.

Group Health returned to the bargaining table with a federal mediator sitting in. A new contract was finally hammered out on August 30, 1995.

Sources: Walt Crowley, To Serve the Greatest Number: A History of Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound (Seattle: UW Press/Group Health, 1996), 231.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You