PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Hundreds of nurses from Providence St. Vincent Medical Center with the Oregon Nurses Association will start voting on Tuesday on whether or not to walk off the job.

ONA claims Providence has retaliated against nurses involved in union activity through discrimination and threats.

Along with this, the hospital reportedly has not shared critical safety information regarding the emergency department staffing — which the nurses say has been understaffed throughout the pandemic.

“We’ve seen what happens in health care when frontline nurses don’t have a voice. Nurses know how our patients suffer when we’re short staffed,” said ONA Executive Committee President at Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center Virginia Smith, RN.

In common-sense proposals, union nurses are asking for the following:

  • Stronger patient safety standards to reduce future COVID-19 outbreaks and ensure the highest standards of care for all Oregonians.
  • Safe nurse staffing to ensure high-quality care and patient access.
  • Affordable health care and paid leave so frontline nurses can seek care after COVID-19 exposures and afford health care for their own families.
  • A fair compensation package that allows hospitals to recruit and retain the skilled frontline caregivers our communities need to stay healthy and safe.

“The last two years have broken the systems set up by profit-hungry hospital administrators,” said Smith. “Nurses are patients’ safety net and hospitals continue to weaken that net by understaffing and falling short on the economics that impact nurses’ lives.” 

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Providence says they’ve suggested a federal mediator to help settle talks, but that the union has rejected that option.

Providence reportedly just wrapped up its 15th session with ONA, which have been going on since October 2021. Gary Walker, a spokesperson for Providence, said the hospital has been trying to meet with the union more often to complete a deal.

“Strikes don’t settle contracts; getting together and discussing the issues face-to-face does,” said Walker.

The vote will continue through May 3 and allow the union to authorize a strike, which would then require another ten days notice. This means the nurses could walk off the job in just under a month from now.