PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In what was nearly a unanimous decision, nurses at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center voted to go on strike on Wednesday night.

Nurses say that the vote to strike is to “protest Providence’s illegal unfair labor practices and demand a fair contract to raise nurse staffing standards, improve patient care, make health care more affordable and address Providence’s growing staffing crisis.”

Providence St. Vincent employs over 1,500 frontline nurses, who are a part of the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA).

“ONA’s Labor Cabinet authorized a strike because nurses at St. Vincent are taking a stand to defend their rights, protest Providence’s unfair labor practices and protect their patients and coworkers. We’ve worked hard to find common ground but Providence refuses to compromise. Nurses won’t keep quiet while our communities get worse and worse care from fewer and fewer nurses,” said Kevyn Paul, RN, Chair of ONA’s Labor Cabinet, which authorizes ONA strike actions and administers strike funds to support nurses. “ONA nurses at Providence have our full support as they stand up and fight to win respect on the job and secure the basic safety standards we need to protect each other and continue caring for our patients.”

Providence nurses have led site meetings to begin the preparation process for a strike. If the strike becomes official, ONA will give Providence a 10-day notice to allow management ample time to stop admissions and transfer patients, unless the two sides can reach an agreement that prevents a work stoppage.

“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 John Smeltzer, RN, ONA’s Executive Committee President at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. “Providence is hemorrhaging nurses and staff. We can’t wait and hope it gets better. We have to take action. For two years, frontline nurses have sacrificed our own health and safety for our patients and for Providence during COVID-19. Now, we’re asking Providence to protect patients and nurses with basic care improvements, safe nurse staffing, better working conditions and a fair contract.”

ONA’s St. Vincent nurse bargaining team is set to meet with Providence management for bargaining sessions on Tuesday, May 10 and Monday, May 23.

Providence provided an official statement after the strike vote was announced.

For more than seven months, Providence St. Vincent Medical Center has attempted to negotiate constructively with ONA to deliver a comprehensive pay and benefits package to our nurses.

Throughout this long process, ONA has at times delayed on agreeing to additional dates for discussions and to this point has rejected Providence St. Vincent’s offer to engage a neutral federal mediator to help build consensus to accelerate negotiations.

Tonight’s strike authorization announcement is just the latest attempt to delay meaningful discussion, a move that only serves to prevent our valued nurses from receiving the substantial pay raises and expanded benefits they deserve.

When it comes to negotiations, Providence St. Vincent believes that talking solves more than walking. We are eager to continue the dialogue with ONA as we work tirelessly toward finding a mutually agreeable resolution.

As these important conversations continue, our community can rest assured that we are always prepared to provide high-quality, compassionate care for our patients, as we have at Providence St. Vincent for nearly 150 years.