PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Nurses in Oregon could hit the picket lines, after nurses overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center – citing unfair labor practices.
According to the Oregon Nurses’ Association, the strike authorization vote was overwhelmingly passed late Wednesday night, following several months of rising tensions.
17-year Providence St. Vincent ER Nurse Rebecca Sudduth Told KOIN 6 News voting yes to the strike was an easy decision after watching several colleagues quit amid the pandemic.
“It’s kind of exciting to come together and see everyone find their voice, especially as we’ve come out of the pandemic,” said Sudduth. “And we’re not asking for the moon and stars, we’re not asking for anything crazy. And that’s kind of where it felt like an easy yes.”
Among the list of contract proposals, the 1,600 Providence nurses represented by ONA are calling for stronger patient safety standards, more nurse staffing, affordable health care, and a fair compensation package that allows hospitals to “recruit and retain” more nurse staff.
“Providence has made a lot of money over the last couple of years,” said Oregon Nurses Association Communications Specialist, Myrna Jensen. “And nurses want to make sure that there are enough nurses to take care of patients.”
While Providence said they are saddened that the situation has heightened to this point, the hospital told KOIN 6 News they have continued to advocate to get a Federal Mediator at the bargaining table to help all parties find common ground. A request they claim ONA has continued to deny.
“Certainly, talking solves more than walking,” said Jennifer Burrows, Chief Executive Officer of Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. “And we want to make sure that we are having a dialogue and coming to a resolution.”
According to Providence, their newest three-year contract proposal includes a 9.5% wage increase for all nurses in year-one.
Although ONA and the hospital have not yet to come to an agreement, negotiation sessions have been scheduled for the days to come.
Both parties told KOIN 6 News they hope to reach an agreement before nurses walk out.
“We hope we don’t come to a strike. We want to take care of our patients,” said Sudduth. “We don’t want to have surgeries canceled and that kind of thing. Absolutely not. It’s hard on everyone.”
Although the vote was authorized Wednesday, ONA told KOIN 6 News no strike has been set yet and they are willing to negotiate. If a strike were to happen, the Association would provide Providence with a 10-day notice to give the hospital enough time to prepare for the loss in staff.
Should nurses choose to strike, Providence told KOIN 6 News they are posed to hire temporary replacement staff and would not close the hospital. However, officials said they hope it does not come to that.
“When we’re getting to the place that our nurses feel like it’s more important to walk, we really need to be having dialog and a mediator,” said Burrows. “It is what is necessary at this point in order for us to get resolution. It is more meaningful to have a mediator than then additional conflict.”