Early this morning, the Techs and Service and Maintenance units at PeaceHealth Southwest and the Lab Professional unit at PeaceHealth St. John put in their ten-day notice to strike. Last week these workers voted to authorize a strike at 95%, citing stalled negotiations, critically short staffing levels, low wages, and management’s bad faith bargaining as the cause. Many of these healthcare workers, who are members of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP), AFT Local 5017, AFL-CIO, have been in negotiations over their next union contract for months without reaching an agreement.
"We have been demanding a change for months, and yet management has ignored us. That is why we are taking action: to win a safe hospital for staff and patients," says OFNHP President Jonathon Baker, who is also a member of the Lab Professional bargaining unit that voted to strike. “A strike is a tool that workers use to highlight how important they are and to pressure management to do what’s right, and that is what they are forcing us to do.”
Hundreds of these workers and their supporters walked the picket line at both hospitals on Wednesday, pledging to take action to address the problems they say are endemic to the hospital. These three units are joined in bargaining by a Tech unit at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart in Lane County, which is still bargaining but has not authorized a strike. If those workers choose to join the striking workers at Southwest and St. John, then this could lead to a 1,700 person healthcare strike.
Each unit who is striking argues that they are making far below market rate, and the Vancouver Techs are asking for as much as a 40% wage increase over three years simply to make them competitive in the region. OFNHP St. Charles Medical Center techs in Bend struck for 9 days over similar issues in 2021, and OFNHP members at Kaiser Permanente the same year approached what would have been among the largest healthcare strikes in American history.