We’re writing in response to the letter from Gina Bishop, CEO, regarding AMEA’s decision to go on strike. A closer look at the details will reveal that Providence’s recent actions are morally indefensible. 

Ms. Bishop doesn’t mention why we are going on strike, or how we got to this point. Providence states they were “blindsided” by the Union’s decision to go on strike. If Providence is blindsided, it’s because they haven’t been listening to the voices of their employees for the past year. 

Providence insists on cutting our sick leave even as our community faces the real possibility of an island pandemic. We resist these cuts because it puts the health and safety of our community — and our fellow caregivers — at risk. 

Companies all over America, including Walmart recently, are adding sick leave for their employees. They don’t want their employees coming to work sick. Providence is willing to spend millions to bring in replacement workers to Kodiak from locations across the United States, rather than allowing us to keep our sick leave. 

Ms. Bishop’s letter might leave a reader with the impression that we have not tried everything we possibly can to avoid this result. She doesn’t mention that AMEA union leaders were scheduled to be in negotiations with Providence St. Joseph Health (PSJH) March 11-12. The union was optimistic that more than a year of failed negotiations was about to come to an end. 

Providence cancelled negotiations just two days before they were to start. They stated they could not travel due to COVID-19. This claim is belied by two facts. First, Providence regularly utilizes Skype for many meetings so that caregivers don’t have to travel. However, Providence did not propose negotiating by Skype. (They merely cancelled.) Secondly, and even more telling, is the fact that the two human resources negotiators are here in Kodiak as we write this letter, in preparation for the strike. And they have no qualms with flying in replacement workers. 

This is unacceptable. 

In Ms. Bishop’s letter, she refers to the upcoming strike as “ill-timed.” That’s a point we agree on. There is never a good time to strike. AMEA would prefer that the contract be settled; union members DO NOT want to strike. We want to continue to take care of patients and do what we do every day: provide quality care and compassion to friends and neighbors in our community. Our cause is for the health of the community and the health of our caregivers. 

The Union is committed to stand strong and fight to keep our sick leave from being taken away. We’re not asking for more. We are willing to endure the short-term sacrifice and discomfort of a strike. Why? Because we have faith in our goal of a long-term solution. A solution that’s good for our employees and ensures the continued long-term commitment to the health and well-being of Kodiak. 

Our goal is to keep our community healthy. We ask for your support. 

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