AMEA and Providence make a contract agreement, union calls off strike

The Alaska Medical Employees Association called off its strike against Providence Hospital in Kodiak today. In a joint statement this morning, the union and the hospital announced that Providence will allow AMEA workers — which include nurses, physical therapists, support staff and others — to maintain their current sick leave benefits for another year, and receive additional compensation now.

“This short-term agreement allows everyone to come together and focus on what really matters most right now — the health of the Kodiak community as it faces the public health threat of COVID-19.”

Union organizer Genevieve Cook and Kristine King at AMEA’s informational picket on Saturday. (Photo by Kavitha George/KMXT)

After working for more than a year without a firm contract, Genevieve Cook, a local physical therapist on the AMEA negotiating team said union members are feeling positive about the outcome.

“I think there’s a lot of relief,” she said. “I’ve gotten a lot of feedback back from people that are really excited that we were able to maintain our benefits and we’re also able to not have to go on strike and we’re there for our community. We’re ready for them.”

The tentative agreement was made with the help of a federal mediator on Monday, according to the statement. The new agreement and the decision to call off the strike were made on Monday, after 96 percent of AMEA members voted no on a previous contract proposal that would have ultimately reduced workers’ paid time off. Providence declined to comment on the new agreement further.

Understaffing and replacement staffing in the hospital were concerns going into a strike at the same time as more cases of COVID-19 are being detected in Alaska. Cook said members are “very happy” they can maintain sick leave benefits at a time when medical workers are at significant risk.

She said, despite the timing, the union received widespread support from the Kodiak community.

“We just want to say thank you to our community for supporting us and knowing that we would take care of them. I think that it was really touchy timing for a strike due to the challenging situation, but we felt just overloaded with community support.”

AMEA is endorsing the plan to its members, who will take a vote on the agreement in the near future.

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