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WA Rep. Requests Hospital and Union Enter Employment Arbitration

Wednesday, February, 29, 2012

In an effort to end an extended labor dispute, Washington State Representative Kevin Van De Wege formally requested that Olympic Medical Center and SEIU Healthcare 1199NW (Local) enter employment arbitration. Neither OMC's CEO, Eric Lewis nor SEIU's local president Diane Sosne believed that this request was in a good choice for different reasons. At this point, the SEIU has voiced more of a willingness to proceed with the arbitration than OMC.


Why OMC Disagrees with Contract Arbitration


Mr. Lewis, in his responding statement to this request, said that he has concerns about designating a non-local unelected person to decide on what he calls, “considerable complexities of health care and making decisions that could literally determine the fate of OMC and health care access for the people in our hospital district.”


Additionally, he says that the workers have no right by law to binding arbitration, and that the OMC is proceeding by established rules that are overseen by the Public Employment Relations Commission.


The SEIU's Wary Agreement to Legal Arbitration


While not giving specific reasons why the SEIU Healthcare Local 1199NW is reluctant about accepting employment arbitration, Ms. Sosne indicated that they would enter arbitration in the interest of resolving the dispute. According to her, the status quo of the Olympic Medical Center's approach and the ongoing dispute was damaging to members' morale and productivity.


Having gained the SEIU's agreement to arbitration, Van De Wege shifted his focus to getting OMC to agree to the proceedings. In his response to OMC, he assured them that there was no risk in entering arbitration, and that there was a good chance that there would be a ruling in their favor. As yet, Mr. Lewis or another OMC representative has not responded.