PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – More than 1,000 workers at Washington’s PeaceHealth Southwest and PeaceHealth St. John submitted their 10-day notice to strike on Friday.
1,300 workers from the tech and service units at PeaceHealth Southwest in Vancouver and the lab professional unit at Longview’s PeaceHealth St. John will begin the strike on the morning of Oct. 23, the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals announced.
The union is asking management to continue bargaining over the 10-day strike notice period.
According to OFNHP, the striking units argue they are making below market rate, with Vancouver techs asking for a 40% wage increase over three years.
The strike comes after 95% of union members voted to authorize a strike in early October, citing stalled negotiations, short patient staffing levels, low wages, and management’s bad faith bargaining, OFNHP said.
The union says many of the workers are members of OFNHP, AFT Local 5017, AFL-CIO have been in contract negotiations for months without an agreement, the union says.
“We have been demanding a change for months, and yet management has ignored us. That is why we are taking action: to win a safe hospital for staff and patients,” says OFNHP President Jonathon Baker, who is also a member of the Lab Professional bargaining unit that voted to strike. “A strike is a tool that workers use to highlight how important they are and to pressure management to do what’s right, and that is what they are forcing us to do.”
The OFNHP says hundreds of these workers and their supporters walked the picket line at both hospitals on Wednesday and are joined in bargaining by a tech unit at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart in Lane County, which is in the bargaining stage and has not authorized a strike.
In a statement, PeaceHealth said “during the planned strike that involves our Service and Tech caregivers at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and Lab Techs at St. John, our community can continue to count on the safe, high-quality care it has come to expect. Following standard industry practices, PeaceHealth has secured the services of highly qualified, experienced temporary replacement caregivers from a staffing agency to ensure patient care remains uninterrupted during the strike.”
The hospital added, “we respect our caregivers’ rights to engage in this action and other lawful activities. However, we are deeply disappointed that the union has chosen to strike given that we have offered highly-competitive multiple proposals across three contracts that addresses in some way virtually every one of the issues OFNHP told us were important to caregivers.”
“We value our caregivers, their professionalism and commitment to our patients – and a planned action will not change that. We remain committed to reaching an agreement so our caregivers can benefit from the improvements our proposal would provide,” PeaceHealth furthered.
The PeaceHealth strike notice comes amid other local labor disputes as Kaiser Permanente settled a new contract with its workers on Friday after holding a three-day strike earlier in October. The contract between Kaiser and its employees gets rid of the threat of another strike.
The U.S. Acting Secretary of Labor stepped in to help get an agreement between Kaiser Permanente and its healthcare workers in Oregon, Washington, and several other states. Their tentative agreement sets the minimum wage at $23 an hour and raises wages by 21% over four years.
Meanwhile in Portland, Portland Public Schools and the teacher’s union are scheduled for one more mediation session on Tuesday, and if no agreement is made, the union is planning to vote to authorize a strike. The Portland Association of Teachers says pay, planning time, and class sizes are key issues.
“That’s what we’ve seen in the past is Portland Public Schools and the union. Once we voted to authorize the strike, get to a settlement. But the likelihood of that, after all these sessions doesn’t seem high. So, there might be a chance that there’s a strike announced right after the vote. We’re going to have to see how Tuesday,” Portland Association of Teachers President Angela Bonilla said.
PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said, “I think the important thing is for us to stay at the table, so we’re prepared to be there as much as long as it takes. Really, our interest is to avoid any school closures, any interruption to our students, educational program. And so, we’ve got to continue to go back and forth and try to arrive at a fair settlement.”