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Group Health nurses reporting for five days of different duty

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Sharron Pearson and her colleagues at Group Health in Federal Way showed up at work Monday, but not for duty as she has done for 15 years as a registered nurse.

Pearson and about 20 other employees of the Federal Way Medical Center were waving picket signs at passing motorists and striking in protest of a dispute over medical benefits. Several drivers honked in apparent encouragement.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has about 2,200 members working for Group Health, called for the strike over disagreements in contract negotiations over co-pays for doctor visits and prescriptions and premiums for both employees, their spouses and families.

Group Health spokeswoman Laura Query said the medical provider wasn’t experiencing any problems on the first day of a five-day strike the union is holding. The company has hired temporary nurses during the strike.

Query said the non-profit company approved the strike after the union announced its intentions. The strike will end at 11:59 p.m. on Friday.

Pearson said she wasn’t worried about her patients getting quality healthcare during the strike. She noted there were nurses, other caregivers and technicians who were working that aren’t part of the union.

“Am I worried about affordable healthcare?” Pearson asked. Yes, she answered.

The contract for registered nurses expired earlier this month. Licensed practical nurses, like Darlene Cartwright, have been working without a contract since July 2003.

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