The medical techs, technologists, and therapists at St. Charles Medical Center have now ratified their first union contract, marking a new stage of labor peace and partnership with the hospital. These employees first voted to unionize in 2019 and began the long process of bargaining their first contract. After hitting roadblocks and inequitable proposals from St. Charles management, the workers voted by 94% to strike. This began an historic nine-day strike, which brought in mass support across Oregon from political leaders, unions, faith and community organizations. After months of stalling, this strike brought St. Charles back to the table with workable proposals, and the strike gave way to intensive bargaining sessions where a final agreement was reached.
“This contract proves, once again, that when you come together as a union you can accomplish what isn’t possible alone,” says Randi Weingarten, the president of the 1.7 million member American Federation of Teachers, of which OFNHP is an affiliate. “I am so proud of the newest members of the OFNHP and AFT family who organized for years and fought fiercely at the bargaining table and on the picket line to win a fair first contract. This historic agreement delivers on their faith with immediate boosts to pay and conditions and a permanent and enduring voice on the job.”
Since ratification, management at St. Charles has tried to argue that they would have given the techs these raises regardless, something that has no evidence. Instead, what they did was offer raises to the non-union employees as the union fought and organized to win the contract. This was a piece of their concession, and it is what happens when a unit organizes a union: it wins wage increases for all workers, not just those represented by the contract. Every raise that happened, both for these workers and in the other units, was a result of the union organizing and the strike.
“We have won a groundbreaking new contract, which raises our wages an average of 25% and ensures that we have a strong voice at work.” says Frank Dewolf, a technologist in the Cardiac Cath Lab. The sizable increases are the result of a new wage system that will repair the long-standing pay disparities in the hospital, correcting things like gender and tenure pay disparities. Alongside pay equity, workers will now have a comprehensive ladder for wage increases based on years of experience and tenure. The contract also ensures that workers will have the ability to challenge contract violations through a grievance procedure and binding arbitration and will have a structured voice on the job through labor partnership committees that will work to collaboratively address concerns as they come up.
“We are excited to have the techs at St. Charles join the OFNHP family so we can work together to move care forward in Oregon,” says Jodi Barschow, the local president of OFNHP. “We have won an amazing contract because we worked together and pushed the employer to do the right thing.”
This labor victory has resonated across the country as the techs in St. Charles set an example to healthcare workers around the country. They have demonstrated what is necessary to ensure equitable workplace conditions and adequate patient care for the community they live in and serve. This contract will be in effect for the next three years, at which time it will re-open for negotiations. These workers are joining their healthcare colleagues as members of OFNHP, which will be entering contract negotiations at Kaiser Permanente and PeaceHealth next month.