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8,000 Nurses and Caregivers Prepare to Strike for Fair Wages in Seattle While CEO Gets 157% Pay Increase

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File this one under: absolutely not okay.

Nurses and caregivers have announced that they are moving closer toward an imminent strike at Swedish Medical Center, the largest healthcare provider in the Seattle area, saying that Providence needs to put patient safety before CEO pay.

Nurses and caregivers are raising alarms that patient care problems and severe understaffing have worsened since Swedish was taken over by the corporate giant Providence, Washington’s largest healthcare corporation which now controls over 1,000 facilities in seven states. Meanwhile, compensation for Providence’s CEO skyrocketed 157 percent to over $10.5 million in 2017. Providence raked in $24 billion in revenue in 2018, and $970 million in profits in just the first three quarters of 2019.

Supermajorities of caregivers have authorized strikes at each of the seven Swedish locations – First Hill, Cherry Hill, Ballard, Edmonds, Issaquah and ambulatory care centers in Redmond and Mill Creek – but management refused to make meaningful progress at the last contract negotiations on December 9.

If the strike occurs, members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW at Swedish would be part of more than 13,000 total strikers at 13 Providence locations throughout the state, including members of UFCW 21 and the Washington State Nurses Association. This would be the largest healthcare strike in recent history.

Since April, Swedish-Providence nurses, nursing assistants, techs, lab workers, dietary workers, environmental service workers, clerks, social workers, and others have been proposing urgent solutions to Swedish-Providence executives. Contract proposals include: safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, affordable health benefits, expanded training opportunities, safeguards against racial discrimination on the job, and fair wages that recruit and retain qualified staff.

Executives have rejected almost all proposals, instead threatening steep cuts to caregivers’ sick time and repeatedly breaking federal labor law by violating caregivers’ rights.

“Being an emergency room nurse is very stressful, but I do this work because I love my patients and feel like I make a real difference in their lives,” said Whittney Powers, who works the 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift at Swedish Edmonds. “I’ve been alarmed to see a steep decline is staffing levels throughout our hospital and nurses are overextended. The safe staffing standard in emergency rooms is one nurse for every four patients, which should be followed at all times. But we are often required to care for five or six patients at a time, many of whom can be in severe distress.”

Powers added, “We often hear complaints from patients that they have to wait a long time for care or can’t get their pain medication in a timely manner. Because they’re also understaffed on the hospital floors, some patients have to stay for days in the emergency room hallways. One of the reasons we’re understaffed is that there’s been a mass exodus of employees because our wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living. I pay $1,750 for a studio apartment in Seattle and struggle to make the rent. It’s frustrating that Swedish-Providence has the funds to improve patient safety and staffing, but instead they’re being misappropriated to huge executive pay packages. That makes us feel like patients and staff aren’t valued at Swedish.”

Multiple studies have proven that unsafe staffing levels in hospitals can lead to lower quality care and patient harm, including falls, medication errors and increased deaths. Recently, the Washington State Office of Administrative Hearings found that, in the Swedish First Hill Organ Transplant department, “The employer’s failure to respond to the severe staffing shortages and manager hostility and retaliation, all of which jeopardized patient health and staff health, shows a complete disregard for patient care and safety as well as a complete lack of regard for their own employees.”

In one example of worsening understaffing, 11,416 babies were born at Swedish in 2018, 2,000 more than in 2015. Yet, there are only three additional registered nurses in the labor and delivery department. In another example, Swedish had 1,571 patient beds in 2018, 145 more than in 2015. Despite this, Swedish only has one additional environmental service worker to clean and disinfect patient rooms.

“Sometimes environmental service techs can have 26 rooms to clean in an eight-hour shift, and this kind of pressure can lead to dirty rooms and the danger of infection being spread to patients,” said Angel Sherbourne, a certified healthcare environmental service technician who has worked at Swedish First Hill for over five years. “If we don’t have enough staffing, patient rooms can’t be cleaned and sanitized correctly, and workers get burned out, sick and injured. On top of that, we can’t afford to live in the communities where we work. My husband and I have been renting a small room for $850 a month, and struggling to buy a decent house that isn’t falling apart.”

In 2017, the neurosurgery department at Swedish Cherry Hill had a patient safety scandal severe enough to warrant concurrent FBI, U.S. Attorney General, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Washington state Department of Health investigations. Despite Swedish-Providence’s public declaration to solve the crisis, management has since cut staff, including the system-wide elimination of the IV nurse team. It appears that the fundamental cause of the scandal, a focus on increasing profits instead of patient safety, is still infecting the corporate culture at Swedish-Providence.

Approximately 1,000 healthcare workers a year leave Swedish-Providence and there are currently about 900 vacant staff positions. 600 of those positions are registered nurses, and 50 percent of open positions have gone unfilled for 60 days or longer. One of the reasons that Swedish-Providence has difficulty with recruitment and retention is that wages for frontline workers are not keeping up with the soaring cost of living.

Swedish-Providence pays almost 40 percent of its employees below the salary necessary to afford the average one-bedroom apartment in the Seattle area.

Providence management has also broken federal labor law multiple times with unfair labor practices including: retaliating against and terminating employees for union activity; unlawfully surveilling employees; intimidating workers to stop them from speaking out; refusing to provide information necessary to bargain a fair contract; and refusing to bargain in good faith.

The next contract bargaining session with Swedish-Providence management is scheduled for December 30, and if executives do not make significant progress toward improving patient safety and staffing, caregivers say they will set the exact date of their strike shortly thereafter.

“I’ve been a Swedish nurse for 31 years, and I’ve stayed here this long because I’m deeply committed to fulfilling our stated mission of providing excellent patient care,” said Terry Thompson, who works in Swedish Ballard’s perioperative department. “But it’s close to impossible to offer the care our vulnerable patients need because we’re always rushing. Many new nurses go home crying because they feel they could have done better if they had a more manageable patient load. Decisions are being made by executives in corporate offices miles away, who rarely step foot in our hospital. Nurses and healthcare workers are here at the bedside and we must have a voice in setting safe staffing levels. These millionaire Providence executives need to look within and ask themselves if they’re going to do what’s right to protect patient care.”

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Trump Witness Turns ‘Strawberry Red’ After Judge’s Scalding Scolding

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New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, after becoming visibly angered by Trump defense witness Robert Costello, cleared the courtroom of the jury and the press before admonishing the “MAGA-friendly lawyer” Monday afternoon in the ex-president’s criminal “hush money” trial.

Calling it a “brawl,” The Daily Beast set the scene: “After Costello, a former prosecutor, was reprimanded for delivering outbursts in the court whenever he was interrupted or told not to answer a question that had been objected to and sustained, Costello began to stare down the judge.”

Before the reprimand, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reported: “Twice now the judge has sustained an objection and Costello answered regardless. Judge Merchan addresses him directly to not answer if he’s sustained the objection. ‘Jesus,’ Costello mutters after it happens again. ‘I’m sorry,’ the judge, visibly annoyed, says to him. ‘I’m sorry?'”

And then, the admonition.

READ MORE: ‘Wack Pack’: Questions Swirl Over ‘Trump Uniforms’ and Who’s Funding ‘Weird’ Trial Surrogates

“I’d like to discuss proper decorum in the courtroom,” Judge Merchan said, according to Collins. “If you don’t like my ruling, you don’t give me side eye and you don’t roll your eyes.”

Collins added: “Then in a raised voice, Merchan asks, ‘Are you staring me down right now?!'”

“The jury was NOT in the room for this,” Collins added. “Merchan sent them out, then admonished Costello, then when he was staring him down, Merchan became furious and cleared the courtroom. So the jury witnesses none of this. (And the press missed whatever was said in the interim.)”

Here’s how it went down, according to MSNBC host and legal contributor Katie Phang.

“Judge Merchan is ANGRY,” she observed, before reporting the dialogue:

“MERCHAN: ‘I’d like to discuss proper decorum in my courtroom’
MERCHAN: ‘If you don’t like my ruling, you don’t say ‘Jeez’ ‘
MERCHAN: You don’t say ‘strike it’ because I’m the only one who can strike it.
MERCHAN: ‘You don’t give me side eye and you don’t roll your eyes’
COSTELLO: I understand.”

Phang added, “When the media were allowed back in, Costello is seated at the witness stand looking decidedly chastened. Merchan looks calm.”

The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reports the judge didn’t calmly just clear the courtroom:

MSNBC legal contributor Lisa Rubin called it, “one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen in court.”

READ MORE: Law ‘Requires’ Alito and Thomas to Recuse Says Former Federal Prosecutor

And while CNN’s Collins noted the jury was not in the courtroom for exchange, Phang reports: “Although the dressing down of Costello took place outside of earshot of the jury, they witnessed firsthand Costello’s demeanor and petulance and heard firsthand his quips and remarks from the witness stand. Perhaps Costello just reinforced to the jury why Cohen didn’t want to keep Costello as his lawyer…Costello is pandering for an audience of one: Trump.”

MSNBC legal analyst Kristy Greenberg noted, “Michael Cohen was respectful. Bob Costello is acting like a clown. Jurors will notice and this will hurt Trump. Any concerns that jurors may have had about Cohen have now been overshadowed by Costello’s disrespect to the judge right in front of their faces.”

Lowell also reported after that the reprimand, “Costello is so red in the face he resembles a strawberry.”

See the social media post above or at this link.

 

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Law ‘Requires’ Alito and Thomas to Recuse Says Former Federal Prosecutor

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U.S. Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas have no choice but to observe federal law and recuse themselves from cases involving the 2020 presidential election, according to an attorney who served as a federal prosecutor for 30 years, while a noted constitutional law expert is warning Justice Alito “may be responsible for delaying” the Court’s decision on Donald Trump’s claims of absolute immunity.

Their remarks come as Americans are waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue its decision on Donald Trump’s claim of absolute and total immunity from prosecution.

“The Supreme Court, as led by insurrection advocates Alito & Thomas, has caught & killed Trump’s prosecution for trying to overturn the 2020 election. The impartiality of Thomas & Alito ‘might reasonably be questioned’ so the federal law REQUIRES their recusal. Period. Full stop,” wrote Glenn Kirschner, now an NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst.

Kirschner posted text from federal law, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 455, which reads: “Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

READ MORE: ‘Partisan Insurrectionist’: Calls Mount for Alito’s Ouster After ‘Stop the Steal’ Scandal

The renewed interest in both far-right justices comes after Friday’s New York Times bombshell report that revealed a symbol of January 6 insurrectionists, the “Stop the Steal” flag, which is the U.S. Stars and Stripes flying upside down, was flown at Justice Alito’s home just days before President Joe Biden was inaugurated.

Justice Alito claimed his wife was responsible for flying the American flag in that manner, which is also used to indicate a situation of dire or extreme distress. He claimed she had done so after an altercation with a neighbor, who had a “F*** Trump” sign on their lawn that could be seen by children awaiting the school bus. But those claims seemed to fall apart after sleuths noted because of COVID schools were operating virtually, so there were no school buses running, and neighbors did not remember what allegedly was extreme neighborhood drama.

On Friday, Laurence Tribe, University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, a constitutional law scholar and professor who has argued three dozen times before the Supreme Court, told CNN (video below) he believes Justice Alito must recuse.

“I do. I don’t think there’s any question about it. It’s in many ways, more serious than what we’ve seen with Justice Thomas. At least Justice Thomas could say that, ‘my wife Ginny has her own separate career. We don’t talk about the cases.’ You may believe that or you may not, but that’s very different from what’s going on with Justice Alito. He’s not saying, ‘My wife has her own separate career.’ He’s throwing her under the bus and blaming her for what is on his house, his flagpole. It’s his flag malfunction. It’s his upside down flag and everyone knows that the upside down the flag, which the United States Code says should be flown that way only in cases of absolute emergency as a kind of SOS, was in this case, a symbol of the claim that the election was stolen from Donald Trump.”

“It was the banner of the insurrectionists,” Tribe continued. “And I’m reminded of something that the late Justice Scalia said in the opinion he wrote in 1987, he said, ‘you cannot expect to ride with the cops if you cheer for the robbers.’ In this case, Justice Alito expects to preside over a decision about whether there wasn’t it direction and who was responsible for it. And whether Donald Trump who has been charged with involvement in trying to obstruct the operations of government and the transfer of power is immune, or if cases before the court, he’s obviously not qualified to sit in this case.”

READ MORE: ‘Mouths of Sauron’: Critics Blast ‘Mobster Tactic’ of Trump Surrogates ‘Violating’ Gag Order

Like Kirschner, Tribe pointed to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 455, saying, “28 US Code section 455 says that any federal judge or justice must – not may, but must – recuse him or herself in any case where either that justice or the justice’s spouse has any skin in the game. There’s no distance here between Mr. Alito and Mrs. Alito. It’s clear that whatever offensive sign was involved, that dispute between neighbors trivializes what’s involved here.”

On the Supreme Court’s pending decision on Trump’s immunity claims, Tribe added, Justice Alito “may be responsible for delaying it.”

“After all, the protocol within the court is the different justices dissenting and Alito is probably writing a dissent from a rejection of the extreme claim of absolute immunity. That didn’t seem to gain traction with the court. If a justice is dissenting, you wait till the dissent is done before announcing the case. So by delaying this immunity decision so long that a trial can’t occur before the election, the effect may be to give de facto immunity to the former president, who if he wins the election will pick an attorney general who will dismiss the case. So ultimate accountability is very much on the line.”

As for Justice Thomas, back in March of 2022, The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer wrote: “Legal Scholars Are Shocked By Ginni Thomas’s ‘Stop the Steal’ Texts,” which also read: “Several experts say that Thomas’s husband, the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, must recuse himself from any case related to the 2020 election.”

And in June of 2022, former Bush 43 chief White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter, also posting that federal law, wrote: “Justice Thomas’s participation in Dobbs means Ginni Thomas was not receiving payment from persons seeking reverse of Roe. Right?”

He was referring to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, coincidentally written by Justice Alito, which overturned five decades of civil rights law and removed abortion as a constitutionally-protected right.

“We have no idea who’s paying Ginni Thomas,” he continued, referring to Clarence Thomas’s spouse, who also alleged worked to overturn the 2020 election. “Justice Thomas refuses to recuse from any cases because of her. This conflict of interest is unworkable.”

Watch Professor Tribe below or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Not Weighing in on That’: Republicans Refuse to Pull Support for Trump as Trial Nears End

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‘Not Weighing in on That’: Republicans Refuse to Pull Support for Trump as Trial Nears End

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Donald Trump will have more than a dozen allies, including an elected Republican state attorney general and several House Republicans at the Manhattan Criminal Courts Building on Monday, in likely the largest show of support yet for the indicted ex-president facing 34 felony charges related to his alleged effort to subvert the election by falsifying business records related to his “hush money” payments to two women.

At least four GOP members of the House, which is not back in session until Tuesday, are expected to show at the courthouse, and an even larger number, at least nine, Trump allies are also expected to attend – likely to deliver speeches before the cameras.

The list, according to NewsNation’s Libbey Dean, includes South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, an election denier who had supported overturning the 2020 presidential election and signed onto what has been called a “false and frivolous” lawsuit attempting to overturn the results. Wilson also was chair of the Republican Attorneys General Association in 2020 when the organization “sent a robocall encouraging ‘patriots’ to march on the Capitol and demand Congress overturn the election results,” the Associated Press reported in January 2021. He denied knowledge of the robocall project and five days after the January 2021 insurrection conceded Joe Biden had won the presidency.

READ MORE: ‘Partisan Insurrectionist’: Calls Mount for Alito’s Ouster After ‘Stop the Steal’ Scandal

Other elected officials  attending Trump’s trial Monday are Republican U.S. Reps. Eric Burlison, Andrew Clyde, Mary Miller, and Keith Self.

Also attending are John Coale from the Trump-aligned America First Policy Institute, attorney Alan Dershowitz, Trump attorney and GOP attorney general candidate Will Scharf, convicted felon and Trump pardon recipient Bernie Kerik, Trump loyalist and former Trump administration official Kash Patel, and others.

Senate Republicans who spoke with CNN’s Manu Raju (video below) made clear they will not be dropping support for the indicted and embattled ex-president any time soon.

Trump’s trial, which last week had been on schedule to end this week, will now extend into next week with closing arguments beginning Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day.

U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) told CNN’s Raju, he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Trump is convicted, while echoing, almost verbatim, Trump’s talking points.

“I mean, that’s probably going to happen, but that’s going to get, most likely, thrown out. These charges, frankly, talk about election interference, that’s what’s going on right now in that New York courtroom.”

READ MORE: Dem Wants Probe Into Allegations of Congress Members Drinking During Contempt Hearing

Senator James Lankford (R-OK), whose bipartisan border bill was killed by Trump, would only offer this to CNN: “I want to be able to have people that are role models and leaders and all those things as well.”

“For me, the policy issues are going to matter significantly,” he added, suggesting support for Trump.

Senate Republican Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota was asked if he will continue to support Trump if he is convicted.

“We’ll see how the trial comes out. I’m not weighing in on that.”

Watch the video below or at this link.

READ MORE: Why Alito’s ‘Stop the Steal’ Flag Story Just Fell Apart

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