PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Nurses at Providence Milwaukie Hospital and Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center have voted to authorize strikes against Providence, Oregon Nurses Association announced Thursday.

The strike authorization votes come after nurses at Portland’s Providence St. Vincent Medical Center voted to strike in May.

According to ONA, the nurses are protesting unfair labor practices and are demanding contracts to improve patient care, nurse staffing standards, make health care affordable and address Providence’s staffing crisis.

“Providence isn’t taking patient or nurse safety seriously. For the last two years, I’ve watched nurses sacrifice our own health and safety for our patients and for Providence during COVID-19. And for the last six months Providence has forced nurses at my hospital to work without a contract when all we’re asking for are basic safety standards we need to protect our patients, our coworkers and our families,” said ONA Executive Committee President at Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center Virginia Smith. 

Smith added “we don’t take this action lightly. Nurses have reached across the aisle in bargaining and Providence has repeatedly slapped our hand away. We want to work but we need to work to be safe for our patients and our coworkers.”

ONA said nurses are working to determine strike dates, but will give Providence a 10-day notice when strikes are called.

“I take pride in being a nurse. I do my best every day to provide excellent care in the face of adversity and I strive to bring comfort and healing to my patients and their families, even in their darkest hour. I shouldn’t have to fight this hard to ensure our nurses are taken care of too. It’s time for Providence to prove it cares for its caregivers,” Smith said.

ONA Executive Committee President at Providence Milwaukie Hospital Peggy Elia explained “there’s a patient care crisis at Providence. Every day, nurses are forced to care for twice as many patients as is considered safe. We’re standing up for Oregonians and striking for safety. We won’t settle for anything less. Oregon patients and their families deserve safe, high-quality, affordable and accessible health care.” She also noted “an emergency room nurse recently told me, ‘Every day I come to work and try not to quit and every day it gets harder.’ This isn’t normal and it isn’t safe. We need Providence to step up and help nurses raise standards for our patients, our nurses and our communities so we can give every Oregonian the care they deserve.”

“Our patients come first. Nurses overwhelmingly voted to strike to defend our rights to speak up to keep our patients and coworkers safe. Nurses’ top priority is improving patient safety by addressing Providence’s staffing crisis and raising standards to recruit and retain caregivers,” said ONA Executive Committee President at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center John Smeltzer. “Providence is hemorrhaging nurses and staff. We can’t wait and hope it gets better. We have to take action. We’re asking Providence to protect patients and nurses with basic care improvements, safe nurse staffing, better working conditions and a fair contract.”

Providence released a statement in response to the strike authorizations explaining “while we think it is premature and are disappointed by ONA’s strike authorization votes, we are eager to continue dialogue with ONA as we work to find mutually agreeable solutions. Since contracts are settled at the bargaining table, we encourage the union to avoid a costly strike for our nurses.”

“It’s important to note that if an actual strike is called at any of Providence’s Portland area hospitals, we will turn all of our attention to preparing to serve our patients and return to negotiations after the strike. Continued access to high-quality care remains our highest priority,” Providence added. “We have a comprehensive plan that ensures the delivery of that care to the communities who rely on us, even if nurses choose to walk out. Our hope is that everyone will continue to bargain in good faith. Talking solves more than walking.”