Victory for custodians at the Harborview Medical Center!



This post is a follow-up on our office’s ongoing work with custodians at Harborview Medical Center who had been experiencing discrimination and harassment from their managers. For more background, check out our previous post that contains the letter we sent last month urging Harborview to end the harassment, and this Seattle Times article.

Tuesday night the courageous stand by Harborview custodians paid off when they signed an agreement with Harborview’s upper management resolving several concerns. Previously the mainly immigrant custodians had complained of suffering discrimination and harassment from their managers, and had been denied a $1/hour Infection Control Premium pay raise for failing an English test. Rather than suffering silently, however, the custodians heroically organized themselves to stand up for their rights. As part of this process, 40 of them met with my office so that we could coordinate and help publicize their concerns (see the Seattle Times article here).

I would like to thank Harborview for responding promptly and entering into negotiations with the union, WFSE 1488. I would also like to extend thanks to the WFSE organizers and shop stewards for all their organizing efforts and for representing the workers. And finally, I would like to give a big thank you to the Coalition of Refugee and Immigrant Communities for tirelessly advocating for not only these custodians, but all immigrants and refugees, and special thanks to Mehret Tekle for her leadership in organizing the events that brought about this success.

Here is a list of what the custodians won:

  • The English testing is immediately ended. There will still be job proficiency testing, but it will now be limited to those sections of the test that are directly related to infection control.
  • Those who had previously passed infection control proficiency, but failed unrelated parts of the test, are now considered to have passed the whole test. The 38 custodians who did not pass this section will be retrained and given the opportunity to take it again.
  • Everyone who has passed or will pass the test before March 21st will get the $1/hour Infection Control Premium, retroactive to January 1, 2014.
  • Harborview agreed to and has started an investigation into the management’s discrimination and harassment reported by many custodians.

This is an overwhelming success for the custodians, and my office will remain vigilant in making sure that the agreements are carried out. We will ensure that the 38 workers who have not yet passed the test are retrained, and that there is a thorough investigation into the allegations of discrimination.

This victory is further proof that workers do not have to silently suffer abuses in their workplace and shows that collective organizing pays off. If workers in other Seattle workplaces are facing issues of discrimination, harassment, or other injustices, I urge them to contact my office so we can support them in whatever way possible. I also urge all workers to empower themselves by coming together in unions and in mass movements like the fight for a $15/hour minimum wage.

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