Olympia health care workers go on strike

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The picket line outside of Olympia's Providence Sound Home Care continues to grow, with more on more healthcare workers joining the fight.

The picketers say they work every day to preserve the dignity of their patients, and now they're the one's fighting for respect. Many say the picket line is about more than just having their voices heard. They say it's about basic health.

"Any medications that we have are out of pocket. Any doctors visits, physical therapy, any of those things are completely out of pocket," said registered nurse Zeryn Zayne.

Zayne said she can't afford Providence's new health care system. The new system has higher deductibles and a new policy where workers can't access sick leave unless they're sick for at least three days.

"If I have a flu or a virus that only takes me 24 hours or two days, I have to use my vacation time," said care provider Linda Thurman.

That's what helped spur the 150 home-care and hospice workers to walk off their jobs at three locations Wednesday morning. They joined 530 Providence Saint Peter Hospital workers who went on strike on Monday.

Providence officials admit that deductibles are up, but say the health care workers union isn't taking into account the company's new wellness programs.

Providence spokesperson Colleen Wadden says preventive medications are fully covered and wellness visits and screenings are also covered. Providence says it also provides full coverage for many preventive medications for chronic illnesses like diabetes and asthma.

In regards to the new sick leave policy, Providence says if employees are sick for more than two days, then they would use an extended illness bank of time that is paid time off from work.

They say they've hired temporary workers for both strike locations. With no negotiation talks planned, workers say they're wondering what the future holds.

"I think that's been the biggest issue, is wondering what's next. Kind of going day to day but wondering what it takes to meet that need," said Zayne said.

The workers say they'll continue to picket until Saturday, at which point they'll go back to work.