United for Safety at Cascade

The nurses and healthcare workers of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and UFCW 21 at Cascade Behavioral Health in Tukwila care for some of the most vulnerable psychiatric and chemical dependency patients in our community. But instead of prioritizing safe patient care or treating workers with respect, Cascade parent company Acadia has fostered an abnormally unsafe work environment, with severe understaffing, decrepit facilities, a shocking lack of COVID-19 protections, and no security for staff and patients.

Poor Safety Practices Put Patients and Healthcare Workers at Risk

Unsafe Working Conditions

Cascade’s failure to invest in security, combined with the Tukwila police department’s decision not to come into the hospital due to recent legal changes, has created a dangerous environment where workers and patients lack protection. 

On August 1, after an incident of preventable workplace violence injured several workers, and threatened the safety of numerous patients, nurses and other healthcare workers at Cascade felt they had no choice but to go on a safety strike until Cascade provides security.

Lack of COVID-19 Protections

As of this week, three patients and two housekeepers have tested positive for COVID-19. Last fall a Cascade coworker died of COVID-19 but Cascade Hospital continues to operate with dangerously deficient COVID-19 safety protocols.

A Washington State Department of Health investigation found that Cascade was not providing workers with adequate PPE, had deficiencies in providing cleaning materials, and inaccessible COVID-19 safety policies and protocols.

Inadequate Facilities

Workers have documented broken ceilings, sewage leaks, and broken doors not replaced properly, all of which create unsafe conditions for patients and staff, and increase the opportunity for patient elopement.

Severe Understaffing

Inadequate staffing makes it extremely difficult to provide the care their patients deserve and to prevent harm.  Many of Cascade’s patients are involuntary, and without sufficient staff, the workforce cannot ensure that patients safely remain in the hospital without harming themselves or others.

Our Meeting With U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh

Secretary Marty Walsh held a listening session with our coworkers at Cascade Behavioral Health Hospital in Tukwila on Aug. 13. We shared how the abnormally unsafe working conditions in our workplace impact us and our patients. We are grateful that Secretary Walsh took the time to hear our concerns, and we feel ready to continue our fight to make Cascade a safe place to work and receive care.

Tell Cascade Behavioral Hospital: It’s time to put patient and worker safety over corporate profits

Our community won’t stand for a for-profit corporation like Acadia abusing workers and putting the safety of patients and the community at risk. We’re demanding that Cascade Behavioral Health management settle a fair union contract and fully address the unsafe conditions in the hospital.

A for-Profit Model That Hurts Patients, Workers and Our Community

From Public Dollars To Private Profits

Cascade parent company Acadia is a for-profit corporation whose primary purpose is to maximize profit, yet the primary source of Cascade’s and Acadia’s revenue is taxpayer-funded Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements – but it is only accountable to its shareholders, not to the public.

Medicaid Fraud

In 2019, Cascade parent company Acadia was found guilty of Medicaid fraud. In a settlement reached with the Department of Justice, Acadia paid $17 million to the United States and $2.2 million to the state of West Virginia–the largest fraud settlement in West Virginia’s history at that time.

Acadia Can Afford to Staff Cascade Safely

Acadia’s healthy balance sheet from end of year 2020 includes $2 billion in operating revenue, $183 million in operating profit, $378 million in cash and cash equivalents and $6.4 billion in net assets. For the first quarter of 2021, Acadia reported a net income to Acadia stockholders of $9.7 million and for the second quarter of 2021 net income was $44.5 million.

Updates From the Picket Line

SEPTEMBER 1

Media advisory for Thursday, September 2, 2021: Nurses and healthcare workers on safety strike at Cascade Behavioral Health are marking the start of their second month on the strike line with a rally for safe patient care. Rally speakers will include elected officials, labor leaders and other prominent community supporters.

Read more >>

AUGUST 24
We held a joint press conference with OneAmerica, the largest immigrant and refugee advocacy organization in Washington State, to call out the abnormally unsafe working conditions at Cascade, a sign that the voices and rights of immigrant workers are being disrespected.
 
We shared our concerns about the discrimination, disrespect and outright racism we’ve experienced and the resulting impacts on patient care.
AUGUST 20

We were joined by State Sen. Joe Nguyen; State Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley; and Nikkita Oliver, Candidate for Seattle City Council. Thank you for your support, advocacy and for adding your voice to the call: Cascade Safety Matters!

Later that afternoon, our sisters Ayan, Sara, and Adam stepped away from the picket line at Cascade Behavioral Health on Friday to gather for Friday Prayer, Jumma. They were led in prayer by Sara’s son. They wanted to share this special moment with our union family: “We are out here at Cascade fighting for safety, but we also have our faith and our beliefs. Blessings to all.”
AUGUST 20
The Seattle Times: Cascade Behavioral Health employees call for increased safety, staffing as they finish third week of worker strike.
 
“We’re fed up,” said Alazar Yirgu, who’s worked at the hospital for more than 5 years and says he’s seen many co-workers leave with broken noses or fingers after trying to calm patients down. “And we want everybody to hear our story.”
AUGUST 18
It was an eventful day of action! Our chants are only getting louder on the third week of our strike for safety. Meanwhile, management’s lack of respect was on full display with the installation of a privacy fence to block our picket line and an attempt to intimidate us with police presence.
 
Thank you to our neighbors, leaders, fellow union members, and friends who stopped by our picket line to add your voices to the fight for safety at Cascade — East African Community Services; King County Executive Dow Constantine; Seattle King County NAACP; King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay; Hamdi Mohamed, Candidate for Seattle Port Commission; Dustin Lambro, Candidate for Hospital Commissioner; and our union colleagues from Swedish, MultiCare in Spokane and Kaiser Permanente.
AUGUST 16-19

📽️ Must watch: Coverge Media’s coverage of our actions for safety at Cascade, featuring frontline nurses and healthcare workers, and an update from King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, who joined our picket line this week.

AUGUST 11

We held an informational picket and rally to show Cascade management and Acadia administration that our community stands with healthcare workers. In a powerful day of action. We stood together and spoke in one united voice to tell Cascade Behavioral Health management that Cascade Safety Matters!

We thank our community partners, elected leaders, and our siblings from SEIU 925 and SEIU 775 who joined our rally for your steady support and tireless solidarity.