More than 2,000 UW Medicine nurses will soon receive massive raises after wrapping up contract negotiations with hospital administration last month and approving a new labor agreement this week.

Nurses at UW Medicine’s Montlake and Northwest campuses finished voting on the new contract Wednesday night — nearly nine months before their current one expires. While the new contract will be in effect from July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2025, the now-approved raises will be applied at the beginning of the 2023 and retroactively to Aug. 1, 2022, according to the Washington State Nurses Association, which represents a portion of the nurses at Montlake and Northwest campuses.

UW Medicine’s agreement is the latest in a recent wave of Seattle-area hospital contract negotiations — including at Providence Swedish and Seattle Children’s — and puts the hospital system “on par” with others nearby, WSNA nurse representative Ed Zercher said in a statement.

“This is really big,” said Janet Bower, a registered nurse who works at UW Medicine’s Montlake campus and served on the union’s bargaining committee. “I’ve been there 37 years and never seen a raise this large.”

Under the new contract for the Montlake and Northwest campuses, UW Medicine will raise salaries 21% (and 23% for new nurses) over the next two years, including 5% retroactively to Aug. 1, 2022; 4% on Jan. 1, 2023; 9% on July 1, 2023 and 3% on July 1, 2024. Nurses who have been at the hospital five years or less will receive an additional 2% raise at the beginning of the year to help with recruitment and retention efforts, Bower said.

Also included in the contract are an increased raise for on-call nurses from $4.25 per hour to $7 per hour; double-time pay for extra shifts; and added pay for those who help train travel nurses, in addition to those who train student nurses and new graduates.

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“We’re constantly training new people,” Bower said, adding that that was another reason she and her colleagues had been frustrated with their pay, particularly when they spent “hours and hours” training travel nurses, or high-paid contract nurses who travel around the country to fill hospitals’ staffing holes.

She added, “You’re basically training someone who’s making more money than you and getting more time off and everything. … If the pay is more even, people aren’t going to be chasing the money — they’re going to be looking for experience.”

While UW Medicine’s hospital system includes Harborview Medical Center, staffers at the First Hill facility are represented by SEIU 1199NW. Harborview nurses also voted to approve a new contract this month.

After the two sides arrived at a tentative agreement earlier this month, UW Medicine said in a statement that in recent weeks the hospital system had been in negotiations with SEIU 1199NW and WSNA, in addition to SEIU 925 and the Washington Federation of State Employees — all four of which represent thousands of UW Medicine staffers.

“Our employees are the backbone of UW Medicine and we value each member of the team and appreciate their commitment to our mission of improving the health of the public,” the statement said. ” … The new agreements are historic and provide some of the largest incremental pay increases we have ever negotiated.”

The hospital system continued, “These increases provide competitive compensation and will help us recruit and retain the staff required to deliver outstanding care to our patients.”

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Zercher, the WSNA nurse representative, called the quick agreement, wrapped up in a matter of weeks, a “classic case of desperate times call for desperate measures.”

During the pandemic, nurses “stepped away from the bedside,” Zercher said. “They believed they were put in situations that were not optimal for patient safety. They decided they were maybe going to step away from the profession or find work elsewhere. … [UW Medicine] knew they had to do something drastic. The status quo would no longer hold.”

The salary wins came as a huge relief to staffers, who have in recent years shared stories of burnout, exhaustion and feelings of disrespect from hospital leadership, all exacerbated by the pandemic. And while the new raises likely won’t have immediate impacts on staffing strains, retention and recruitment, Bower said, they’ll help.

“I can already tell people are happier,” Bower said. “People are feeling like, ‘More money is coming. They’re hearing us.’ “